The Ravens extended their preseason winning streak to an NFL-record 20 games on Saturday night. Baltimore beat Washington 37-3, but it suffered a key loss during the contest.
Running back J.K. Dobbins went down with a knee injury early in the first half. The second-year running back went down because of the injury and had to be helped off the field. He couldn’t put much weight on his injured leg. He was later carted to the locker room and speculation swirled that he had suffered a major injury.
Indeed, Dobbins has a torn ACL and will miss the 2021 NFL season, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports.
An MRI today confirmed that Ravens’ RB J.K. Dobbins, one of the top young running backs in the game, suffered a season-ending torn ACL, per source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) August 29, 2021
Dobbins was expected to take a step forward after a strong rookie season. He totaled 804 rushing yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie and averaged 6.0 yards per carry. That led all running backs and ranked third in the league behind only Lamar Jackson and Kyler Murray. But now, the 2020 second-round pick will focus on getting ready for the 2022 NFL season.
What will the Ravens do without him? Will they trust their current depth chart or add another veteran to the fold? Here’s what to know about how Dobbins’ injury will impact the Ravens — and fantasy football owners — in 2021.
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How J.K. Dobbins’ injury impacts Gus Edwards
As painful as Dobbins’ injury is for the Ravens, the silver lining is that they have a competent backup ready to replace him: Gus Edwards.
Edwards has been with the Ravens for three years and has appeared in 43 games with 13 starts. In each of his three seasons, Edwards has posted between 711 and 723 rushing yards while averaging 5.2 yards per carry.
Last year, Dobbins averaged 5.0 yards per carry. While it was a full yard lower than Dobbins’ average, it was still tied for the ninth-best mark in the NFL, and seventh-best among running backs.
So, between the tackles, Edwards won’t be a huge drop-off from Dobbins — but he isn’t the same type of pass-catcher. He has caught only 18 passes during his three NFL seasons, while Dobbins caught 18 last season alone. That could open up more receiving opportunities for Justice Hill — who caught all five of his targets while playing just 73 offensive snaps last year — or for Ty’Son Williams, who has impressed during the preseason.
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When should I draft Gus Edwards in fantasy football?
Simply put, Edwards’ average draft position in fantasy football should now be roughly comparable to that of Dobbins. In other words, Edwards should move up in fantasy football rankings to replace him.
For example, in Sporting News’ top 200 fantasy rankings for standard formats, Dobbins was previously ranked 24th overall. That made him a late-second to early-third-round pick.
Edwards’ ceiling may not quite be the same as Dobbins’ because he lacks the receiving upside of his injured counterpart, but he’s still certainly worthy of being an RB2. So, he should probably be selected at some point in the third round (or perhaps the early fourth in PPR leagues).
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Who is the Ravens’ top handcuff: Ty’Son Williams or Justice Hill?
For fantasy purposes, Edwards is the clear backfield leader for the Ravens. However, because the team runs the ball so much, either Hill or Williams could emerge as a quality handcuff/sleeper option.
Hill has more experience than Williams. The 2019 third-round pick has logged 82 touches during his two-season NFL career and has been a key special teams contributor for the Ravens. He saw minimal action in 2020, but he was occasionally used as a receiving back.
That said, Williams probably has more upside than Hill right now. Williams totaled 131 rushing yards and a touchdown on 24 carries during the preseason and caught seven passes for 37 yards. He is one of the NFL’s highest-rated runners during the preseason, according to Pro Football Focus.
Ravens RB Ty’Son Williams, a 2020 undrafted free agent who tore his ACL midway through his senior season at BYU in 2019, has @PFF‘s third-highest rushing grade (84.6) among qualified running backs this preseason. https://t.co/Pv7Dr9wy2x
— Doug Kyed (@DougKyed) August 29, 2021
So, though Hill may be ahead of Williams on the Ravens’ official depth chart, Williams is the handcuff to own in fantasy football. Why? Because he projects to be the top between-the-tackles backup to Edwards.
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Ravens RB depth chart
This is what the Ravens’ RB depth chart looks like after Dobbins’ injury. Hill still has a slight edge on Williams, as he was listed ahead of him on the team’s unofficial depth chart before preseason Week 3.
Still, Hill and Williams are likely interchangeable. The two could be involved in a three-back rotation for the Ravens. That said, it’s worth wondering whether the Ravens could target a veteran to provide some extra experience to this relatively young running back room.
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Will the Ravens sign Todd Gurley, another veteran RB?
After Dobbins’ injury occurred, speculation swirled that Baltimore could target a veteran running back to join its roster. Specifically, Todd Gurley’s name surfaced; after all, the former Rams and Falcons starter visited the Ravens in June, so he might be on their radar.
Signing Gurley could make sense for the Ravens. Of their four running backs, only Edwards and Hill have handled an NFL carry to date. Rolling with two unproven talents in Williams and McCrary could be a risk, so adding a veteran would provide them some insurance that they have an option to carry the load behind Edwards.
Gurley isn’t the only veteran available on the market. Adrian Peterson, Frank Gore, LeSean McCoy, Duke Johnson and Le’Veon Bell are all still looking for work. If the Ravens want to add a veteran, they’ll have no shortage of available options to try out.
Additionally, the team could watch roster cuts in the hopes that another player shakes free. They could keep an eye on the Saints’ running back spot since Latavius Murray is on the roster bubble, or perhaps look at the Texans’ crowded running back room and try to get Mark Ingram — who spent 2019 and 2020 with the Ravens — back.
It’s too early to say if the Ravens will add another back to the fold, but their actions will certainly bear watching as NFL teams whittle their rosters down to 53 players.