Kirby Smart made J.K. Dobbins a draft-day steal

In the 2020 NFL Draft, with the 55th pick, deep into the second round, the Baltimore Ravens added to their lethal offense by grabbing a running back in J.K. Dobbins. While the title of ‘steal of the draft’ can go to a bevy of different players, Dobbins can most certainly stake his claim. Four years ago, in the 2016 NFL Draft, fellow Ohio State running back alumnus Ezekiel Elliot tore up the Big 10 and college football, and he was rewarded by being taken with the fourth overall pick by the Dallas Cowboys, where he has developed into one of the best backs in the NFL. So it makes sense that when a player at the same position, with better stats, from the same program, emerges four years later, he would also be a prized first round pick. Yet Dobbins slipped a stunning 51 slots past where the Baltimore Ravens happily snared the Ohio State product. 

So what caused Dobbins to slip so far, where he became one of the best second-round value picks, and one of the best selections of the draft overall? There’s a few reasons, but we can start by thanking Kirby Smart of Georgia. This may be a strange place to start, but there’s a good reason for it. Kirby Smart landed a talented quarterback recruit in Jacob Eason, who was impressive in his freshman year, although the Bulldogs struggled through a disappointing 8-5 season. When Eason went down with an injury in the opening game of his sophomore season, true freshman Jake Fromm took the reins. He beat Notre Dame on the road – the last team to beat the Irish in South Bend to this date – in his first career start, and he led Georgia to the national championship game, where they suffered a heartbreaking loss to Alabama. Fromm’s success led to Kirby Smart naming him the starter, and Eason transferring to Washington.

As Fromm began his sophomore campaign, he was pressured for the starting job by star freshman recruit Justin Fields. Despite the jaw-dropping talent and athleticism Fields brought to the table, Smart kept Jake Fromm as his quarterback, despite Fromm having eclipsed 200 passing yards just five times in fifteen game his freshman year. While Fromm had a good career with Georgia, he was rarely more than a game manager, as the Bulldogs’ ground-and-pound style took most of the pressure off his shoulders. He led Georgia to an 11-3 record, again only breaking the 200-yard mark five times, never making an impact in the ground game, and losing their biggest games of the year against LSU, Alabama, and Texas. In the process, Fromm fell to 0-4 in his collegiate career in games where he attempted more than 30 passes. He finished his career at Georgia 0-6 in such contests. Despite exhibiting the signs of a decent quarterback who could never carry a team, Smart continually stuck with Fromm, forcing Fields out of Athens. Fields transferred to Ohio State, where he instantly became a star. 

Despite the extremely talented Dobbins being a major part of the offense, it was Fields who ran the show in Columbus. Whereas Fromm rarely did much to carry Georgia, Fields eclipsed that 200-yard mark 10 times, and he also contributed to the rushing attack. In six games against ranked opponents, Fields garnered 300 all-purpose yards three times, and put up at least 260 yards five times. While Fields garnered all the headlines, Dobbins chugged away out of the backfield, putting up ridiculous numbers and going relatively unnoticed. With their rookie darling quarterback making all the headlines, Dobbins quietly torched opposing defenses. He kicked off the season with a pedestrian 91-yard performance, but he quickly turned it up a notch, with at least 120 rushing yards in six of his next seven contests. In all seven of those games, he averaged at least 6.5 yards per carry. 

Ohio State’s last four games came against highly ranked opponents in Penn State, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Clemson. In those four contests, Dobbins pounded out 157, 211, 172, and then 174 yards against some of the best run defenses in the country. With the lights at their brightest and the competition at its best, Dobbins elevated his game to a whole different level. While he was regarded as one of the better running backs in this year’s draft class, Dobbins never gained the pre-draft hype that Elliot did back in 2016. But his stats, across the board, were superior to the current Dallas star. Dobbins had nearly 200 more rushing yards, averaged more yards per game, and yards per carry. They were equal with 23 touchdowns, and that was with Dobbins being far from the focal piece of the offense. Elliot had quarterback Cardale Jones, an eventual fourth round pick who has yet to gain a permanent foothold in the NFL, leading the way, while Dobbins had a potential #1 overall pick in next year’s draft taking away from his stats. Meanwhile, fellow running backs Jonathan Taylor, who was the workhorse at Wisconsin, De’Andre Swift, the feature back in Athens who kept the pressure off of Jake Fromm, Cam Akers, who dealt with a horrific offensive line at Florida State, and Clyde Edwards-Hillaire out of LSU all were drafted ahead of Dobbins, who nearly slipped all the way into the third round. 

It was an absolute steal for the Ravens to pick up Dobbins, and Baltimore wasn’t even supposed to be searching for a running back. With dual-threat quarterback Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram leading the ground game, the Ravens had little reason to add Dobbins to the offense, other than the fact that it was utterly ridiculous he was on the board still late. There’s such a thing as addressing needs to a fault, or overthinking a draft pick. A lot of teams showed that by passing up on a clear first-round talent in Dobbins. While I can see one, maybe two of the aforementioned backs going ahead of Dobbins, that four teams decided they needed a running back and didn’t go with an absolute stud out of one of the premier programs in the country is insane, and there’s going to be a lot of regretful teams when Dobbins becomes a star in Baltimore.
So the Ravens will thank all the teams that passed on Dobbins, and by extension, they’ll thank Kirby Smart, the man who forced Justin Fields out of town and into Columbus, where he overshadowed the biggest steal of the 2020 NFL Draft. 

Aidan Thomas’s 2020 NFL Draft 3 Winners and Losers: Where does Jake Fromm go from here?

Winners 

Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers absolutely killed this draft, picking up guys that I think could be high-impact players at every stage of the draft, and that was without a pick on Day 2. Without trading up, LA snared Justin Herbert at pick #6, a QB who many consider to be the most pro-ready. They traded up for a second first-round pick, and they grabbed Kenneth Murray, potentially the best linebacker in the class. Then, they picked up UCLA running back Joshua Kelley, who has good speed and great potential as a pass-catching back, a do-it-all swiss army knife in Virginia receiver Joe Reed, Notre Dame safety Alohi Gilman – a gritty defender with great ball skills –  and finally a complete and utter steal in KJ Hill out of Ohio State. Every single one of these players, I believe, can make LA’s 53-man roster. Justin Herbert tossing to Keenan Alllen, Mike Williams, and KJ Hill. Joe Reed returning kickoffs – Austin Ekeler working with Josh Kelley at running back, Alohi Gilman eventually slotting into the secondary or a key special teams role, and Murray rushing inside with Joey Bosa coming from the edge? Chargers aren’t going to be picking 6th again for a while

LOSERS

Jake Fromm

I really didn’t understand Fromm’s decision to go pro this year. He had no foreseeable challenger for his job at Georgia, and he was going to have a chance to be one of the best QBs in the SEC, after playing second fiddle to Tua and Burrow. He might even have chased a national championship. Instead he threw himself into a quarterback draft class that was loaded at the top as a middling prospect. Fromm was the 8th quarterback off the board, and he went in the 5th round to Buffalo, where Josh Allen is locked in at quarterback for the foreseeable future. I don’t see Fromm challenging the more physically talented and mobile Allen for the #1 job, and he’s not the type of athlete you can throw into special packages like you could with Jalen Hurts, so Fromm may just find himself on the bench for a long time to come. 

WINNERS

Division II Football

It’s becoming increasingly rare for DII prospects to be high selections in the draft, as Kyle Dugger out Lenoir-Rhyne became the first to be selected in the first three rounds of the draft since 2006 (according to Boston.com), taken off the draft board at 37th overall by the New England Patriots. It’s just one player, but it’s huge for Division II to prove they can still produce elite prospects, as retaining top players can be a problem for players seeking a professional future. 

LOSERS
Aaron Rodgers/Green Bay Packers

I don’t know what the Packers were doing in this draft. General Manager Brian Gutekunst said before the draft that while the receiver class was deep, he wasn’t just going to hope someone fell into their laps late, adding that he “didn’t expect us to wait around”. Aaron Rodgers mentioned it ‘would be nice’ for the Packers to draft a skill position player in the first round, something they haven’t done in 15 years. Not only did Green Bay not draft a receiver, their first two picks were spent on Jordan Love, a quarterback who will sit behind Rodgers for a few years, and AJ Dillon, who while a great runner, joins a crowded backfield. They gave Rodgers one weapon in the passing game, taking tight end Josiah Deguara. Deguara is good, but Green Bay left arguably the second best tight end in the class, Dayton’s Adam Trautman, on the board with this pick. With a closing window to win and a Hall of Fame quarterback asking for more weapons, Green Bay didn’t deliver, and now they will struggle to remain even close to the top of the cutthroat NFC.

WINNERS
Jacob Eason

Look, Eason probably wasn’t thrilled about slipping all the way into the middle of the fourth round, but he found his way into a near-perfect situation. The Washington and former Georgia signal-caller was selected by the Indianapolis Colts, where he finds himself in a quarterback room with Philip Rivers and Jacoby Brissett. Their selection of Eason likely signifies the exit of the latter, or at very least, gives the fourth-rounder a chance to battle it out for the backup job. That part is under his control, at which point he could be the backup to Rivers, learning under an experienced starter. Rivers is under contract for just a year, so Eason, if he impresses, could have a chance to take the reigns within a year. Consider that to the situation of Fromm, and it’s a dream. Eason can just make his slip in the draft a chip on his shoulder and convert that frustration into proving himself worthy of becoming Rivers’ heir apparent in Indianapolis.

Losers
Dayton
Alright this one’s a little strange, and it can more universally be applied to small-name football schools. Dayton tight end Adam Trautman was ranked as the 2nd best tight end on the board, and he was regarded as a potential second-round pick. It largely depended on when Notre Dame tight end Cole Kmet was taken, and after Kmet departed the board for the Chicago Bears early in the second round, Trautman seemed in a good spot. Yet Trautman watched three more tight ends get selected, before he finally heard his name called at the very end of the third round by the New Orleans Saints. You can call Dayton a winner for getting their first draft pick in 43 years, but the reality is Trautman should have gone way before he did, and the selection of tight ends from bigger football schools like UCLA, Virginia Tech, and Cincinnati just showed a lack of trust from NFL teams in picking up Trautman. For small schools like Dayton looking to compete against bigger name schools, it’s a tough recruiting blow to see such a slide from their best player since the 1970s.

College Football End of Season Roundtable: QB rankings and Playoff Systems

In this piece, to wrap up college football season while we wait for the anticipation of mock drafts and all the other offseason coverage, we will do an end of season roundtable with all of our contributors. The questions at hand are to rank the top quarterback draft prospects by how well we think they’ll do in the NFL, describe your ideal playoff system, and look ahead at potential playoff teams. Let’s get into it.

Some of the top NFL QB prospects are Joe Burrow, Tua, Justin Herbert, Jordan Love, Jacob Eason, Jake Fromm, Jalen Hurts

Rank these college QBS by how successful their pro careers will be and their best fit in the NFL

Nathaniel:

  • Burrow 
  • Herbert 
  • Eason 
  • Tua
  • Love
  • Hurts
  • Fromm

Cal:

  • Herbert
  • Burrow 
  • Eason
  • Love 
  • Tua
  • Fromm
  • Hurts

Andrew:

  • Herbert
  • Burrow
  • Hurts
  • Love
  • Eason
  • Fromm
  • Tua

Aidan:

  • Herbert
  • Burrow
  • Tua
  • Hurts
  • Fromm
  • Love
  • Eason

General Consensus: Herbert got 3 first-place votes, largely due to his experience (4 years of starting to Burrow’s 2) and consistent improvement throughout his career. Also, as he likely will be the third QB selected, he will be put in a slightly better position than what Burrow will have to deal with on the Bengals. The LSU QB is a special talent, but his career was made by one dominant season, and there are concerns about how sustainable that level of success is.

Will Herbert enjoy the best pro career in a talented group of college quarterbacks? Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

Describe your ideal College Football Playoff System

Nathaniel:

I would vote for an 8-team Playoff, keeping the bowl structure. This would allow for a non-power 5 team to get in. We do need to keep the bowl structure though, as bowl season is more for the players than fans. Bowl season is a free vacation and gifts some of these players wouldn’t get without it. 

How the Playoff would Look: 

LSU, Ohio State, Clemson, Oklahoma, Georgia, Oregon, Baylor, Memphis

Cal:

An increase in the playoff system would decrease the regular season and lead to a loss of a home game for schools. Like many others I would like to see the playoff expand but not sure how the NCAA will get another game in. My theory, do away with conference championship games and use that weekend to make the playoff go to 8 teams. No, I don’t like my plan either, and that’s why, unless another week is added and another extra game is played (like there is in the FCS) the playoff must remain as is. 

Andrew:

I agree with Nathaniel about the 8-team player with one condition. Do not allow the Rose Bowl to become one of the quarterfinal or semifinal games. It is a classic game meant to pit the Big 10 against the Pac 12.

How the Playoff Would Look

(Same as Nathaniel’s

Aidan:

I’ll go a little outside the box with an 11-team playoff. Jim Harbaugh has suggested something similar to this although with some variations. In this system, the five conference champions receive a bye to the quarterfinals while teams 6-11 are seeded by the committee (with a Group of 5 guaranteed spot) (or BCS system?) and play a first round game to decide the final three spots. In this system, you would eliminate the conference championship and possibly eliminate one of the cupcake games that every team has on their schedule.

How the Playoff in 2019 would have looked:

LSU, Ohio State, Clemson, Oklahoma, Oregon – get byes

6. Georgia  vs. 11. Memphis

7. Baylor     vs. 10. Penn State

8. Wisconsin vs.  9. Florida

Looking ahead to 2020-2021 – Name your four Playoff Teams and your top darkhorse pick

Nathaniel:

Ohio State 

Clemson 

Alabama 

Auburn 

Dark horse pick: With Jake Fromm leaving, Georgia struggles on offense, and Kentucky wins the SEC East.

Cal:

Clemson

Oregon

Ohio State

Alabama

Dark horse: USC stays healthy and becomes a contedner again

Andrew:

Clemson

Auburn

Ohio st

Baylor

Dark-horse prediction: The ACC has four ranked teams, and UNC wins the Coastal Division.

Aidan:

Ohio State

Florida

Notre Dame

Oklahoma

Darkhorse Pick: Clemson loses @ Notre Dame and cannot fight their way back into the playoff conversation due to their weak ACC schedule.