By: Brad Kelly (@BradKelly17)
Ohio State’s 2019 season has been one of the more memorable regular season runs in recent history for multiple reasons. Some storylines surrounding this team are Justin Fields’ touchdown-interception ratio, Chase Young wrecking games and becoming an impressive Heisman contender, and a dominant team that has hardly been tested entering the College Football Playoff. On top of those reasons, the ascension of running back J.K. Dobbins into possible first-round draft pick conversation.
Now a three-year starter, Dobbins has racked up nearly 4,300 rushing yards and 37 rushing touchdowns in just 41 career games. Dobbins will turn 21-years-old just before the College Football Playoff semifinal, and the 5’10”, 218-pound Texas-raised running back will likely end up as the highest placed running back in the Heisman voting. As far as his NFL prospects go, the true junior has likely risen on NFL Draft boards throughout the league, as he’s become the focal point of a high-powered offense.
Dobbins has a natural feel and vision behind the line of scrimmage, finding open spaces when his initial read becomes cloudy. He does a good job of remaining patient and moving laterally when necessary, particularly to expose undisciplined defensive structures. On this rep against Wisconsin, the edge defender crashed down towards Dobbins. Realizing this, Dobbins used a jump cut to the side of that defender, to the open space that was vacated. Dobbins was able to find a crease that he hit, getting vertical for a walk-in touchdown.
On top of his vision, Dobbins has that special contact balance that is present in some of the better runners in the NFL, such as Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt. Dobbins has a similar strong, compact build and strength in his lower body. Rarely is he tackled when stacked up or hit above the waist, and he has the quickness to avoid any straight-on contact.
Dobbins has had success in multiple blocking schemes, while also having the juice to gain the edge at the collegiate level when necessary. On this rep, Ohio State is running outside zone and Dobbins reads the hole beautifully. Hitting the line of scrimmage at pace, Dobbins is able to break into the open field and to the third level of the defense. While he has excellent size and strength for the running back position, Dobbins also showed elusiveness on this rep to make the safety miss.
On top of being one of the best runners in the draft class, Dobbins has been an underrated receiver during his time as a Buckeye. With 65 receptions during his college career, Dobbins has shown he’s capable of remaining on the field for all three downs in NFL. While his one-handed reception against Wisconsin isn’t the norm, it was a glimpse into Dobbins’ body control, concentration, and soft hands as a pass catcher.
While Dobbins has excellent vision behind the line of scrimmage, he can occasionally get too cute behind the line of scrimmage. When he’s remaining patient and using his lateral agility when deemed necessary, he’s as effective as they come. On the following play, Dobbins’ read is correct — that he needs to bounce one gap outside. However, he attempts a spin move that takes his eyes off of the defense and results in an inability to make an additional move after working through the hole. If this turns into a habit, it will be problematic and limit big plays.
J.K. Dobbins has posted 640 rushing yards, 60 receiving yards and 7 touchdowns over Ohio State’s last three games against Penn State, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The College Football Playoff will be yet another opportunity for him to show out against high-level competition when the Buckeyes take on defending national champions, Clemson. Dobbins has a complete skill-set for the next level, as well as the build and experience to suggest being able to handle a starter’s workload on Sundays. His film suggests that he’ll test out well at the NFL Scouting Combine, which should solidify himself as a top-50 player in the 2020 NFL draft class.