Late for Work 5/31: J.K. Dobbins Among NFL's Most Underappreciated Players

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RB J.K. Dobbins

J.K. Dobbins Among NFL's Most Underappreciated Players

Pro Football Focus revealed its top 5 list of second-year running backs with the most projected total yards for the 2021 season.

As you can see in the graphic below, J.K. Dobbins didn't make the cut despite a strong second half in his rookie season that included touchdowns in six straight games (he broke the franchise rookie record for touchdowns in a season with nine).

Dobbins' exclusion on the list comes on the heels of PFF placing him at No. 26 in its running back rankings.

PFF's lack of respect for Dobbins backs up NFL Network analytics expert Cynthia Frelund's assertion that he is among the NFL's most underappreciated players entering the coming season.

"He averaged 7 yards per rush on outside runs. The next closest guy had 6 yards. That's ridiculous," Frelund said. "He had seven touchdowns against stacked boxes. That was the fourth-most in the NFL and everybody knew the Ravens were going to run, so that's a masterful feat there.

"In pass [protection] he not only made contact but held his defender for at least one second at the 10th-highest rate in the NFL. For a running back, that's one that's unsung; you don't count that enough."

Despite being used sparingly until Week 7 and missing a game due to being on the COVID-19 list, Dobbins finished with 925 total yards last year, including 805 rushing. He led all running backs in yards per carry (6.0).

Moreover, Dobbins was No. 4 on Next Gen Stats' list of the 10 most explosive runners last season (based on the total number and percentage of 15-plus mph runs), trailing only Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson and Derrick Henry.

"Dobbins' fit with the Ravens almost made too much sense when Baltimore selected him in the second round in 2020, and the pairing paid off immediately," NFL.com's Nick Shook wrote. "He finished with the fifth-highest 15-plus mph run rate at 24.6 percent, and gained the fourth-most rushing yards over expectation at +222.

"While Dobbins' ascension meant the end of Mark Ingram's time in Baltimore, it's only the beginning for the former Ohio State star, who found his niche in the NFL in his first season and is poised for more success in the years ahead."

In other words, Dobbins' time on "most underappreciated" lists will probably be short.

Ravens Will Benefit Greatly From Salary Cap Increase in 2022

The Ravens are among the teams who will benefit most from the NFL salary cap increasing to $208.2 million in 2022, Ravens Wire's Kevin Oestreicher wrote.

The salary cap dipped to $182.5 million in 2021 due to revenue loss from the pandemic. The 2022 increase comes at an opportune time for the Ravens, who have players such as Jackson and tight end Mark Andrews in line to be among the highest-paid players at their positions.

"Once those players do sign their long-term extensions, it will be more difficult for Baltimore to add free agents and other outside pieces who will demand big contracts," Oestreicher wrote. "In 2022, Jackson will be playing under his fifth-year option, which is slotted in at just over $23 million.

"According to OverTheCap.com, assuming the salary cap ceiling is $208.2 million, the Ravens would have over $40 million in cap space. That's enough money to continue to build a championship contender in the short term, as well as having enough money to sign certain players to long-term extensions."

With the increase in the salary cap, the Ravens will be better positioned to keep surrounding Jackson with pieces while also being able to roll out a strong defensive unit on the field, Oestreicher wrote.

Report: Ravens Willing to Trade for Julio Jones 'If the Price is Right'

The Julio Jones rollercoaster ride continues for Ravens fans hoping the seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver will be playing in Baltimore this season.

In Friday's Late for Work, we noted that Jones "is not on the radar for the moment" for the Ravens, according to ESPN's Josina Anderson.

However, ESPN NFL insider Jeremy Fowler tweeted over the weekend: "I'm told [the Ravens] are willing to get involved if the price is right."

General Manager Eric DeCosta, come on down! (Sorry, I couldn't resist.)

While the Ravens trading for Jones still seems unlikely, it's very likely they will continue to be mentioned as a potential trade partner until a deal is completed.

What the Atlanta Falcons could get in exchange for Jones remains a matter of conjecture.

ESPN's Diana Russini said the Falcons have discussed several offers for Jones, including one for a future first-round draft pick, but ESPN's Jeff Darlington said they are hoping for a second-round pick but may not get more than a third-rounder.

Wide Receiver Is Ravens' Most Important Training Camp Position Battle

There are several reasons why the Ravens trading for Jones seems improbable, including Jones' cap hit and the draft capital he would cost. But perhaps the biggest indication that the Ravens are not in the market for Jones is the fact that they drafted wide receivers Rashod Bateman and Tylan Wallace last month.

With the addition of the two rookies, as well as veteran free-free-agent signee Sammy Watkins, the Ravens have a crowded wide receiver room brimming with potential.

Wide receiver is the Ravens' most important training camp position battle, according to Bleacher Report's Alex Kay.

"The team's top two options this season should be Marquise Brown and free-agency pickup Sammy Watkins, with first-round pick Rashod Bateman also in line to earn a prominent role," Kay wrote. "Miles Boykin, Devin Duvernay and Tylan Wallace — a fourth-round pick this year — should also easily make the roster, while guys like James Proche II, Deon Cain, Donte Sylencieux and Binjimen Victor will all battle for the sixth receiver position.

"If Brown can live up to his potential — something the team is banking on him to do in Year 3 — and Bateman is as pro-ready as advertised, the Ravens should see their passing attack improve significantly in 2021. Watkins is a solid No. 2 option if he can stay on the field, but avoiding injury has proved difficult for the veteran during his up-and-down NFL career. Fortunately, there is plenty of promising depth behind him, with an intriguing training camp battle likely to determine the player who will fill in if a starter goes down."

Who Are the Ravens' Best-Kept Secrets?

As noted in Late for Work last week, outside linebacker Tyus Bowser was chosen as the Ravens' best-kept secret by Bleacher Report's Kristopher Knox. Bowser also made Ebony Bird's Justin Fried's list of the Ravens' best-kept secrets.

Here's a look at the three other players on Fried's list:

C Bradley Bozeman

"Bozeman took over the starting left guard job in his second season and hasn't looked back since. He's posted consecutive solid PFF grades, allowed just two sacks, and was flagged only twice in 2020. Combine that with his versatility and you have a rock-solid starter who hasn't yet received his due praise."

LB L.J. Fort

"Originally nothing more than a midseason pickup, Fort went on to start eight of 12 games for the Ravens in 2019, helping solidify what was a struggling linebacker corps. He returned in 2020, once again playing a vital role on both special teams and defense. In total, he played in 14 games, making eight starts, and finishing with a stellar PFF grade of 71.5, which ranked [him] as the ninth-best player at his position. Fort was superb in 2020 and one of the best run-stoppers in football, as he earned a PFF run-defense grade of 78.6 (top-five in the NFL)."

WR Devin Duvernay

"A third-round pick in last year's draft, Duvernay excelled on special teams as Baltimore's primary kick returner, even taking one 93 yards to the house for his first career NFL touchdown. As the season went on, the Ravens began to use him more on offense. … Duvernay is hardly a household name just yet, simply because he didn't receive the opportunity to become one in 2020. But those who watched know just how explosive and dynamic he was every time he touched the ball."

Quick Hits

Jackson, Joe Flacco and Robert Griffin III made NFL Network's list of top 10 rookie quarterback plays of the past 20 years. Get this: Flacco — not Jackson — made it for a rushing touchdown!

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