When JK Dobbins was an All-American high school recruit, he was ranked the No. 2 “all-purpose back” in the nation.
The term “all purpose” is usually another way of saying “smaller running back who probably can’t be a workhorse, but could provide big plays and also catch passes.”
That definition didn’t fit Dobbins, but he definitely excelled in any and all purposes as a Buckeye.
From day one he was a workhorse, rushing for 181 yards on 29 carries in his very first game at Ohio State. He never shied away from wanting the ball. When he was sharing carries in 2018, he was frustrated because he wanted to be the workhorse. He got better with more touches.
In 2019, Dobbins got to be that workhorse again and he rushed for an Ohio State record 2,003 yards on 301 carries.
The Buckeyes faced six teams that finished ranked at the end of the season last year. Dobbins rushed for 1,018 yards in just those six games, averaging 169.7 yards per game in those six contests. In the final four games against No. 9 Penn State, No. 18 Michigan, No. 11 Wisconsin, and No. 2 Clemson, Dobbins rushed for 178.5 yards per game and scored eight touchdowns.
And while running the ball so well, Dobbins also caught at least 22 passes in each of his three seasons.
Ohio State head coach Ryan Day arrived at OSU the same year as Dobbins did, and Day has seen enough to know his running back will do just fine in the NFL.
“I think his future will be really strong because he can do a lot of things,” Day said. “I think he’s gonna project really well because of his skill set. He is versatile. He can do a lot of things — he can run the zone scheme, he can run a gap scheme, he can protect, he can run routes.”
Dobbins has a shot to be the first running back taken. It will just depend on the team and how they have the backs ranked. He is likely one of four guys at the top of the tailback board, along with Georgia’s D’Andre Swift, Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor, and LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire.
In three matchups against Taylor and the Badgers, Dobbins rushed for 174, 172, and 163 yards. Taylor, meanwhile, went for 41, 52, and 148 yards in those same three meetings.
Most projections have Swift going first, with Dobbins then finding a home in the early-to-mid second round.
From Day’s perspective, he hasn’t seen a running back in this draft better than his guy, but admittedly he hasn’t seen everybody. What he has seen in Dobbins, however, is a guy who will gladly carry the ball 30 times in any fashion you can design, and then also be an outlet for the quarterback on third downs.
And he also has the drive that every single coach craves.
“He’s kind of shown that he can do all of those things, and he’s such a great kid with a great work ethic,” Day said. “So when you combine all those things it’s a pretty attractive draft pick.”