In just over a month, Buckeye fans will finally get to see their favorite team return to the field. However, the former Ohio State players who are now in the NFL must not be forgotten! There are currently over 50 Buckeyes in the pros this season, with around half of them on the offensive side of the ball. I am making my prediction of who will have the best season. Hint: he's coming back from injury, too.
I believe J.K. Dobbins is going to absolutely tear it up this year if he stays healthy. The Baltimore Ravens running back had a phenomenal rookie season in 2020 after he was drafted late in the second round. He averaged six yards per carry, finishing the season with 805 yards and nine touchdowns.
Unfortunately, Dobbins missed the entire 2021 season as a result of a torn ACL in the Ravens' final preseason game. Now, he is still on the PUP list, but has been vocal about wanting to return to practice soon and expects to be ready by Week 1. It's unsure if he will be ready for the season opener, but he should return in the first few weeks.
The Ravens are looking at him to be their No. 1 RB, and rightly so. During the 2020 season, Dobbins split time with Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards. Now, with Ingram gone and Edwards also returning from injury, the stage is set for Dobbins to have a breakout season and become Baltimore's leading rusher once again.
The expectations are set pretty high for him. Not only are the Ravens and those around the NFL hoping for a solid return after missing a year, they're predicting him to be one of the top backs in the league! According to WynnBet, Dobbins has the third-best odds for running backs to win the MVP, only behind Derrick Henry and Jonathan Taylor.
However, that is a lot of pressure to put on the 23-year-old returning from an extremely difficult injury to bounce back from. Saquon Barkley tore his ACL in 2020, then proceeded to only rush for 593 yards this past season. From an optimistic perspective, Adrian Peterson tore his ACL in 2011, then returned the next season to run for a scant 2,097 yards to lead the league in rushing. So, there are a few different ways Dobbins could look this year.
Simply put, I think Dobbins is set up for success. The Ravens are a great team led by Lamar Jackson. Yes, they have had a couple of rollercoaster seasons the past few years, looking like a team that could go deep into the playoffs some weeks, while other weeks looking like total disasters. The same could be said for Jackson-- he gets talked about being the MVP sometimes and other times, not so much.
Yet, with the drafting of some solid offensive lineman and the return of Dobbins, this could be the year the Ravens make it past the first round of the playoffs. Jackson has some more protection for himself, and, unlike last year where the Ravens lost their top three running backs to injury, he can also expect some major help from the run game.
So, what is my ultimate prediction of Dobbins' season? I think he will finish as a top-five rusher. I don't think he will surpass Henry or Taylor (not yet!), but he should have a great comeback season. Heck, he might even win Comeback Player of the Year. Dare I say, he might even help the Ravens make it past the first round of the playoffs?