Running backs J.K. Dobbins and Jordan Howard are two of the most intriguing late-round running back options. According to FantasyPros Average Draft Position, Dobbins and Howard are going off the board as the RB34 and RB35, respectively. While Howard might offer more security and a safer floor, fantasy football owners should shoot for upside and take Dobbins.
Fantasy Football: Draft J.K. Dobbins Over Jordan Howard
The Case For J.K. Dobbins
The ideal fantasy football running back is one in a high-powered offense with the trust of his coaching staff. Dobbins certainly fits the bill, as the Baltimore Ravens have arguably the best offense in all of football. The league hasn’t figured out how to stop Lamar Jackson, and any running back receiving carries in this offense is going to have fantastic efficiency with an ample amount of scoring opportunities.
The Ravens are one of the most analytically-inclined teams in the league, and all the numbers say that drafting running backs in the first two or three rounds is a bad idea. However, Baltimore took one look at Dobbins and decided to throw that philosophy right out the window. Right after the NFL Draft, head coach Jim Harbaugh said that it would have been “irresponsible” to not draft Dobbins in the second. The Ravens clearly believe in his talent, and this offense is heaven for fantasy football. If everything breaks right, Dobbins has RB1 upside.
Of course, incumbent starter Mark Ingram puts a ceiling on Dobbins’ value, at least early in the season. The longtime New Orleans Saints running back is going to start the season atop the depth chart, and that could scare off some fantasy football drafters. While Ingram probably will lead the team in snaps, he’s not going to have a Christian McCaffrey type of snap share. Harbaugh said that Dobbins will have a “significant role” in a rushing attack that had 393 attempts last season. While that number will probably dip in 2020, there should still be plenty of work to go around.
The aforementioned “significant role” could include work in the passing game. Mark Ingram isn’t an active liability as a receiver, but it’s certainly not his strength. Dobbins profiles as a solid pass-catcher and could lead the backfield in targets. Targets are far more valuable than the typical carry, which will only help Dobbins’ production.
On top of that, Ingram is entering his age-31 season and is well past the age that running backs typically start slowing down. While he showed no signs of decline last year, we know that football players can fall off the fabled “cliff” at a moments’ notice. It’s not particularly likely, but it is something that should be in the back of your mind.
The Case Against Jordan Howard
The Miami Dolphins signed Jordan Howard to a one-year, $5 million contract to be the leader of the backfield. Miami spent the offseason bolstering their offensive line, and none of the running backs from 2019 are nearly good enough to challenge for Howard’s role. On paper, he should be one of the biggest steals in the league.
However, a deeper dive shows that there are a few red flags with Howard. For one, he’s not going to make an impact as a pass-catcher. The Dolphins traded a fifth-round pick to the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for Matt Breida, and he should see the majority of the passing work. If Breida goes down, the team would probably entrust Patrick Laird with receiving work. This puts a clear limit on Howard’s ceiling, and it only gets worse from there.
If Howard isn’t going to see work in the passing game, he’ll need to score touchdowns in order to carry any type of RB2 upside. Unfortunately, he’s playing for the Miami Dolphins. The Dolphins are one of the least talented offenses in football and will not provide many scoring opportunities. DeVante Parker is currently battling injury, Preston Williams is coming off a torn ACL, Albert Wilson opted out, and the quarterback is either Ryan Fitzpatrick or an untested Tua Tagovailoa.
This offense is going to be bad, and that means Howard will struggle to make his way into the endzone. Howard has the safer floor, but his inability to see targets combined with Miami’s underwhelming offense puts a drastic cap on his ceiling. Fantasy football owners are better off taking Dobbins, as he still has a relatively safe floor but offers fantastic upside.
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