Yahoo Sports' top 2020 NFL draft prospects, No. 28: Ohio State RB JK Dobbins

·8 min read
Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports
Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports

28. Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins

5-foot-9, 209 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 6.00 — possible immediate starter

TL;DR scouting report: Workhorse back who showed in bounceback season that he can be a special performer — especially in big moments

The skinny: J'Kaylin “J.K.” Dobbins was a 4-star Rivals recruit (and top 100 nationally) who picked the Buckeyes over a slew of top-tier programs.

In 2017, Dobbins earned second-team all-Big Ten honors with 1,412 rush yards and seven TDs rushing in 14 starts, also adding 22 catches for 135 yards receiving. He was named Most Valuable Player of the Big Ten Championship Game, running for 174 yards vs. Wisconsin.

Dobbins took a small step back as a sophomore in 2018 but bounced back in 2019 as a junior, earning second-team AP All-American mention and beating out Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor for Big Ten Running Back of the Year. Dobbins ran for 2,003 yards and 21 touchdowns, adding 23 catches for 247 yards and two TDs in 14 starts. Dobbins, who turns 22 years old in December, opted to declare early for the 2020 NFL draft. He attended the NFL scouting combine but only performed the bench press (23 reps) while still nursing the ankle injury he suffered in the semifinal playoff loss to Clemson.

Upside: Great inside rusher — outstanding instincts to pick through holes with great burst. Anticipates openings and reads blocks well. Seldom guesses or makes bad decisions. Trusts his blockers and play design. Cranked out 22 gains of 20 yards or more last season, tied for fifth-most in the country.

Great vision and excellent footwork in tight spaces — little wasted movement. North-south runner who gets downhill and doesn't get cute with lateral movement. But still flashes some elusiveness in the open field.

Watch as Dobbins shows patience to allow his blocks to develop, finds the small crease to squirt through and then tack on some extra yards as the cherry on top with a sharp cut to make the Wisconsin defender miss in the open field:

Dobbins finds a crack to run through and then makes the deep defender miss.
Dobbins finds a crack to run through and then makes the deep defender miss.

Nice, compact build. Surprising pop in his pads. Churns his legs through contact and maintains excellent pad level.

Good contact balance to pinball off tackle attempts and always seems to be falling forward. Squeezes extra yardage, even a few inches, out of almost every run. Very good ball security most of his career — keeps ball high and tight against his frame. Improved in pass protection over three years — unafraid to take on bigger blitzers.

Profiles as an every-down back. Flashes hands as a receiver. Above-average to excellent in every aspect of the position. Ran well in just about every type of run play and blocking scheme — Buckeyes mixed gap and zone concepts. Three 1,000-yard rushing seasons with three different starting quarterbacks under two different head coaches.

Showed athletic and conditioning improvement under the eye of one of the best strength coaches in the nation (Mickey Marotti). Ready for rigors of an NFL strength program. Workhorse potential — carried the ball combined 100 times over three games in a 14-day span to end the conference season (vs. Penn State, Michigan and Wisconsin).

Downside: Might lack home-run power in NFL — long speed appears to be just OK and might be more of a singles and doubles hitter in the league. Not an overly creative runner. Won't win a ton of races to the corner against fast defenses. Lacks elite balance when tightroping sideline.

Lot of his yards are manufactured — often saw two-lane highways to run through. Ran behind top-shelf offensive line and worked with elite talent. Doesn't consistently create his own yardage. Operated under two of the best offensive minds in college football in Urban Meyer and Ryan Day. Fumbled in back-to-back games against Penn State and Michigan after only three fumbles on first 678 touches.

Smaller frame might not hold up long term. Runs a bit high and offers a big target zone for a compact back. Enters NFL with nearly 800 touches, wearing a bit of the tread off his tires at around 210 pounds. Might need to keep weight higher.

Pass protection still needs more work — check out this play against Florida Atlantic where Dobbins needs to just run interference on No. 11 to give the screen play enough time to develop, but he can't quite do it:

Dobbins has to do a better job here in pass protection.
Dobbins has to do a better job here in pass protection.

Heroic, inspiring effort in semifinal loss to Clemson, coming back from ankle injury, but also dropped an easy screen that hit him in the hands and let another potential pass slip through his fingers. Wasn't able to run or test at combine with lingering injury. Brings limited special-teams value.

Best-suited destination: We believe Dobbins is a very high-floor prospect who should be an excellent addition to a backfield. He might be best served growing into a three-down role over time.

Among the teams that could be interested in his services include the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Washington Redskins and Los Angeles Rams.

Did you know: When Dobbins entered La Grange (Tex.) High School, he had a name to live up to. His father, Lawrence, also was a star running back at the school, leading the team to the 1997 state semifinals. In that loss to Sealy HS, the elder Dobbins ran for touchdowns of 70 and 74 yards at the Astrodome. He later went on to play at Blinn Junior College before giving up the sport, but Lawrence was also a track & field star, earning a spot as a sprinter at Lincoln University outside of Philadelphia.

But Dobbins' father wasn't around long enough to see his son emerge as one of the best backs in the country. Lawrence Dobbins died in prison at the age of 33 — when JK was only 15 years old — back in 2014. He suffered a stroke after suffering from heart issues for many years.

Lawrence was in prison for theft and was due to be released later that year. JK and Lawrence were close before his death, and the father left his son with a lasting memory of how he should carry himself as an adult.

“When my dad was alive he would tell me no matter what, have a smile on your face," Dobbins told in 2018. "No matter how you're feeling, you're living and you should be able to smile ... It was not easy. I cried myself to sleep. It's something you can't explain to lose a parent, and I was close with my dad. I loved my dad.

“I have a positive outlook on life because I'm still living and I can appreciate more things in life. You'll see me smiling. I might still be thinking about it, or in pain, but you will never know because I'm never gonna show it. That's how I am and that's how my family is. You gotta keep working hard and don't let something hold you back.”

They said it: “Definitely my vision. I think I have vision that's out of this world. It's definitely a God-given talent. I think that's the best thing about my game.”

— Dobbins at the combine, on his best trait as a runner

Player comp: Devonta Freeman

Expected draft range: Round 2

Previous prospect rankings: Nos. 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. DT Justin Madubuike | 49. CB Damon Arnette | 48. OT Ezra Cleveland | 47. WR KJ Hamler | 46. CB A.J. Terrell | 45. RB Cam Akers | 44. DL Ross Blacklock | 43. OT Josh Jones | 42. DT Jordan Elliott | 41. C Cesar Ruiz | 40. S Kyle Dugger | 39. EDGE Terrell Lewis | 38. WR Laviska Shenault Jr. | 37. S Grant Delpit | 36. Jonathan Taylor | 35. WR Brandon Aiyuk | 34. EDGE Zack Baun | 33. EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos | 32. CB Jeff Gladney | 31. QB Jordan Love | 30. CB Trevon Diggs | 29. EDGE A.J. Epenesa | 28. RB JK Dobbins | 27. WR Justin Jefferson | 26. WR Tee Higgins | 25. S Xavier McKinney | 24. WR Jalen Reagor | 23. CB Kristian Fulton | 22. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire | 21. WR Denzel Mims | 20. LB Kenneth Murray | 19. RB D’Andre Swift | 18. QB Justin Herbert | 17. LB Patrick Queen | 16. WR Henry Ruggs III | 15. EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson | 14. WR Jerry Jeudy | 13. OT Mekhi Becton | 12. DT Javon Kinlaw | 11. OT Andrew Thomas | 10. OT Tristan Wirfs | 9. WR CeeDee Lamb | 8. OT Jedrick Wills Jr. | 7. CB CJ Henderson | 6. LB-S Isaiah Simmons | 5. DT Derrick Brown | 4. QB Tua Tagovailoa | 3. CB Jeffrey Okudah | 2. QB Joe Burrow | 1. Chase Young

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