The 2020 NFL season was filled with some fantastic rookie performers. Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert took the NFL by storm, showing us he already has one of the best arms in the business, and a bright future with a lot of points to come in Los Angeles. Washington Football Team pass rusher Chase Young only got better and better as the season went on. Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson broke the Super Bowl era rookie receiving yards record. Buccaneers offensive tackle Tristan Wirfs looked like an All-Pro player already in Tampa Bay. Jacksonville Jaguars running back James Robinson broke the undrafted rookie running back rushing record. All in all, it was a year with plenty of excitement from the rookie class.
But there was another rookie I wanted to give a shoutout to who didn't have the most yards in the league or even in his rookie class, but one that was praised on draft night for his landing spot and saw more and more playing time as the year went on.
Baltimore Ravens running back J.K. Dobbins.
Dobbins was the fifth running back selected in the 2020 NFL Draft behind Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Jonathan Taylor, D’Andre Swift, and Cam Akers. After a fantastic career with the Ohio State Buckeyes, some thought of Dobbins as their RB1, so him being the fifth one selected was a shock to many. But whether he was your RB1 or RB5, the fit of him in the Ravens’ offense was unanimously praised. Yes, they had a crowded backfield of options that included quarterback Lamar Jackson with running backs Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards, but this was a team that was committed to running the ball, and Dobbins’ would likely get his time.
Dobbins didn’t see double-digit carries or more than 43% of the team’s offensive snaps in any game of the first half of the 2020 season. Then, in Week 8, he broke out with a 113-yard game on a then season-high 66% of snaps. It was then the door was opened, and Dobbins became a regular contributor after that.
Though Dobbins did not have another 100-yard game until the final week of the regular season, he saw double-digit carries in all but one game in the second half of the season. His 805 rushing yards on 134 carries gave him a very good average of six yards per carry, and his nine rushing touchdowns were the most on the team. In fact, Dobbins’ nine rushing touchdowns were the most of a rookie in Ravens history, and with last Sunday’s season finale being Dobbins’ sixth straight game with a rushing touchdown, he tied Hall of Fame running backs Eric Dickerson and Franco Harris for the longest streak by a rookie since 1970.
But what may be more important—to us and to Dobbins—than the individual records was the one set as a team. Last Sunday, the Ravens rushed for 404 yards as a team, becoming just the seventh team in NFL history to eclipse 400 rushing yards in a single game. In fact, they were just three yards off the Super Bowl era record, and 19 yards off the all-time pro football record. That’s because the Ravens are hitting their stride at the perfect time.
After sitting at 6-5 with the playoffs in jeopardy, the Ravens have now rattled off five wins in a row, and look much more like the Ravens of last season than they did previously. During the first half of the season, they were still running the ball more than any other team and still led the league in rushing yards, but it was not as efficient and as dominant as it was the year before; which made them so dangerous and tough to stop. As of late, they are back on that 2019 train of success, and Dobbins is a big reason why.
Next up for the Ravens is the Tennessee Titans in the wild-card round. If you remember, the Titans were the ones that spoiled the Ravens’ incredible season last year.
But last year they didn’t have Dobbins. Maybe that will make the difference this time around.