When looking through the future market for running backs, I've found these are two of my favorite traits to target. Firstly, I look if the player is in a contract year. A player without a contract heading into the season is much hungrier to prove to the team they deserve a raise on their next contract. Another target is when a player is two years removed from an ACL tear. We've seen impressive stats from running backs returning to form after two years. Luckily, I've found a running back returning from an ACL tear in a contract year.
Running Backs In Contract Years
We do not have to date back far to show how players ball out when they're looking for a raise. Just last year, we saw Josh Jacobs, Saquon Barkley, and Miles Sanders, all in contract years, have their best statistical seasons as a rusher.
Jacobs finished with 1,653 rushing yards, 12 rushing touchdowns, and 4.9 yards per carry.
Barkley finished with 1,312 rushing yards, ten rushing touchdowns, and 4.45 yards per carry.
Sanders finished with 1,269 rushing yards, 11 rushing touchdowns, and 4.9 yards per carry.
Let's go back to 2020. We saw three other contract-year running backs crush their previous bests. Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook, and Aaron Jones.
Henry finished with 2,027 rushing yards, 17 rushing touchdowns, and 5.4 yards per carry.
Cook finished with 1,557 rushing yards, 16 rushing touchdowns, and 5.0 yards per carry.
Jones finished with 1,104 rushing yards, nine rushing touchdowns, and 5.5 yards per carry.
Running Backs Two Years Removed From An ACL Injury
After a devastating injury like this, it takes even the best running backs at least a year to fully return to their regular form. Players say that the first season back is more mentally challenging than physical. They tend to be more cautious and hesitant about a reinjury, whether they aren't comfortable making their regular cuts or have yet to gain their top speed back.
Dalvin tore his ACL in 2017 and ended the following year with only 11 games played, 615 rushing yards, two touchdowns, and 4.62 yards per carry. In 2019, we saw the regular Dalvin return, recording 1,135 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns, and 4.54 yards per carry.
More recently, Saquon Barkley tore his ACL in 2020 and ended the following year with only 13 games, 593 yards, two touchdowns, and 3.66 yards per carry. In 2022, we saw Saquon return to form with 1,312 rushing yards, ten touchdowns, and 4.45 yards per carry.
This year's Saquon Barkley is...
The former Buckeye quickly impressed in his rookie season with 113 yards on 15 rush attempts in week 7. By week 11, the backfield was his after he had 75% of the running back touches. Dobbins was set to be the bell-cow the following year, but unfortunately, he tore his ACL in the preseason.
It was a long road to recovery for Dobbins as he faced a few setbacks last season. Dobbins only suited up in week three, which was too much to handle as he reaggravated his knee injury, holding him out until week 13. Coming into this year, he will be healthy and ready to go, but now with new offensive coordinator Todd Monken calling plays.
Monken is most known for his ability in the passing game. He should balance out this Ravens offense that has ranked in the top three in run rate since Lamar Jackson took over in 2019. Monken ran offenses have ranked top four in passing yards in two out of his last three stints as offensive coordinator. The one that ranked outside was his latest with the Cleveland Browns, who were 22nd.
The Browns, a predominantly run-heavy offense, still ranked 12th in rushing yards. Outside of last season, Nick Chubb put up his best season under Monken, recording 1,494 rushing yards. So, while we should see an improved passing game for the Ravens, Monken proved he can still support an elite running game.
Now to the bet...
JK Dobbins o775.5 rushing yards (-115)
Dobbins has already cleared this number in his rookie season. That's without taking over until halfway through the season. In an injury-riddled season last year, he still mustered up 520 rushing yards on only 92 rush attempts. The most impressive stat that builds my case for JK Dobbins is his 5.9 rush yards per carry career. This number is too high to be sustainable, so let's drop it to last year's average, 4.4 yards per carry. He would need 176 rush attempts to reach our 776 rushing yards. When Monken has a bell-cow running back, he's given them at least 230+ carries per year. I'm no mathematician, but Dobbins would end with 1,012 rushing yards by these numbers.
Monken coming in and being more pass-heavy should open up the run game for Dobbins to break free. We saw him do it last season, but he lacked that explosiveness that comes back the second year after an ACL injury. Let's remember the big boys he's running behind. The Ravens have PFF's fourth-ranked offensive line and, according to CBS Sports Dave Richard, the seventh most manageable projected schedule for running backs.
Am I worried about a possible re injury? Of course, it's scary to back a player that has struggled to stay on the field. Am I concerned about this contract dispute he's going through right now? Not really. The way I see it, Dobbins is still on his rookie contract. He's got to follow in Dalvin & Saquon's footsteps and go out and prove to the Ravens that he can stay healthy and earn the money he deserves.
Odds found on PlayNow.com. I would play this line up to 900 rush yards. That's the highest I've seen on most other books. Good luck if you're tailing.
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