J.K. Dobbins pro comparisons: The next Devonta Freeman or Ryan Mathews?

NCAA Football, NFL Draft

J.K. Dobbins pro comparisons see the former Ohio State running back likened to Devonta Freeman and former Chargers back Ryan Matthews.

J.K. Dobbins was an electrifying running back for the Ohio State Buckeyes for the last three years.

After three seasons in Columbus, Dobbins will begin the next chapter of his football career in the NFL. The 2019 First-Team All-American never rushed for fewer than 1,000 yards in any of his three seasons in Columbus. He went over 2,000 yards in his junior season, which resulted in a Big Ten Championship and a College Football Playoff berth.

Dobbins is one of three running back prospects likely to go in the top 50 in the 2020 NFL Draft. Though he may not be the first running back off the board, or even go in the first round, Dobbins’ breakaway speed and elusiveness as a ball carrier should have him as an early day two selection in the upcoming draft.

Because he played with an absurd amount of talent at the college level at Ohio State, it will be interesting to see what Dobbins becomes at the professional level. He could end up on a great team, but he’s not likely to have as much talent around him as he did in college. Who are his NFL comparisons? How good can he be in the NFL? Let’s find out now.

Here are three high-end comparisons for Dobbins entering the NFL.

Who are J.K. Dobbins’ pro comparisons?

Draft experts are split on how they feel about Dobbins at the pro level, but they believe he can be an impactful player right away. However, they have their concerns about staying power, given who he’s drawing comparisons to.

  • Walter Football sees a lot of Devonta Freeman in Dobbins. Both players played for elite college football programs and were a huge part of their teams’ success offensively.
  • Pro Football Focus believes Dobbins has many of the traits Ryan Mathews had coming out of Fresno State in 2010. Dobbins won’t be a top-12 pick like Mathews, but maybe his NFL career plays out better?
  • Lance Zierlein went more than a decade back to find his comparison. He sees a good bit of former LSU Tigers standout and Houston Texans running back Domanick Davis, who now goes by Domanick Williams. Like Mathews, injuries wrecked his promising pro career.

So what we have here is a pretty solid high, middle and low projection for Dobbins. For at least the better part of his rookie contract, Dobbins is projected to be a workhorse back or near enough of one to be a vibrant part of an offense. Freeman was that for the Atlanta Falcons, Mathews was that for the then-San Diego Chargers and Davis was briefly that for the Texans.

The big key here is obviously staying power. Davis averaged over 1,000 rushing yards a season but didn’t make it past year three with the Texans before retiring early in his mid-20s. Mathews had two 1,000-yard seasons and made a Pro Bowl in 2011, but only lasted six years in the league. Freeman rushed for over 1,000 yards twice, made two Pro Bowls and went to a Super Bowl.

Overall, it is peculiar that these three NFL comparisons all had their moments, but couldn’t help but succumb to the injury bug by their mid-20s. What are the chances Dobbins doesn’t get hurt and is the best version of this prototype? How good can he be at the professional level?

What is J.K. Dobbins’ NFL ceiling?

In a best-case scenario, you could look for Dobbins to be something like a three-time Pro Bowler and rush for over 1,000 yards in three of his eight seasons with the team. He may not become the greatest running back in his new team’s franchise history, but he’ll be a guy that fans will definitely end up talking about. There will be a three-year run where he’s an incredible player.

We know that Arian Foster ended up being better in Houston than Davis, LaDainian Tomlinson was infinitely better than Mathews in San Diego and many running backs had better stints in Atlanta than Freeman, including William Andrews, Gerald Riggs and Michael Turner. However, Dobbins has a chance to be better than all of his NFL comparisons, so long as he stays healthy.

If he ends up having a career like Jamaal Charles did with the Kansas City Chiefs or Warrick Dunn did with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and later the Falcons, that would be remarkable. To get six-to-eight years of high-quality production from a day two running back from a traditional power, you’d take that in a heartbeat, wouldn’t you?

Ultimately, if we had to pinpoint which of his three NFL comps he’s most likely to be, even that’s hard to do. If he ends up being a healthier version of Mathews, then he’ll end up with the accolades and the team accomplishments Freeman accomplished in Atlanta. If forced to pick between those two, the team who drafts him would be happier if he was Freeman than Mathews.

Next: 2020 NFL Draft position rankings: Top 10 running backs

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