JK Dobbins tragically tore his Achilles in Week 1. Now, fantasy football managers will be scrambling to the Week 2 Waiver Wire for replacements. Who is the better target: Justice Hill or Gus Edwards?
Before we begin, let’s start this one out with a quick story time with Trader Tim. I am always a strong advocate of keeping your drinking and your drafts separate. League mates want to drink and draft? No problem, drinks are on me, but I never partake in drinking while drafting because I want the edge of being sharp when others are not. This year, however, in my long-standing home auction league, I let my guard down. My dog recently passed (love you and miss you Genghis!), and my friend suggested we do a toast and a shot in his honor. Well, the one shot became half a bottle of Cirroc (Peach, highly recommended when not drafting) on an empty stomach. I wasn’t totally smashed, it was just half a bottle and I’m a 250-pound man, and after about 30 minutes and a break for pizza, I was fully back on my game. However, during that 30-minute window, I won a player I had no recollection of bidding on… J.K. Dobbins. I was fine with it really, $19 for a serviceable RB2 seemed alright, but of course, it wasn’t meant to be.
Make no mistake, this is essentially a career-ending injury for Dobbins. My heart goes out to this young man who has been unable to catch a break. He’ll be a free agent next year and the track record of backs returning from Achilles injuries is not great, to say the least. He may catch on as a backup somewhere and maybe hope to have a similar trajectory to D’Onta Foreman but, more likely, he’ll end up like James Robinson on the scrap heap. It sucks and I hate to gloss over that fact, but as intelligent fantasy owners, we need to know what to do if we had Dobbins (or if we’re trying to snipe the owner who had him).
This kind of analysis is hard. This article may not age well pending decisions that are out of my hands, but we have to work with what we know. I think there’s a number of directions that the Ravens can choose to go here and I’m not going to lie and pretend I have a direct line to John Harbaugh’s ear. All I can do is apply reasonable logic to this situation and see where that takes us.
I think there are three options available here for the Ravens:
1) Use the guys they have (Justice Hill, Gus Edwards, Melvin Gordon, eventually explosive rookie Keaton Mitchell).
2) Sign a free agent (Leonard Fournette, Kareem Hunt).
3) Take their balls in their hand and make a big move (Jonathan Taylor).
Let’s analyze these choices:
STICK WITH THE CURRENT BACKFIELD – 50% LIKELY
I think there’s a 50/50 chance that the Ravens just stick with what they have. They have been known to do this in the past with big injuries, but, they also haven’t necessarily had talent like Fournette or Hunt just sitting out there in the past either. Still, the easiest solution is to keep it in-house.
On Sunday, here’s how the Ravens distributed the backfield work once Dobbins was out:
Additionally, on the entire game, Hill saw 7-of-11 third-down snaps (63%) and 2-of-4 goalline looks (50%), suggesting he may be in line for the higher-value touches even in a committee. Hill also played ahead of Edwards throughout the preseason, and was rumored to be a better fit for this Todd Monken offense than his thicker backfield mate.
Still, if we’re deciding between the current Baltimore options, I think Gus Edwards makes sense as the highest-volume earner going forward. His skill set profiles more as an early downback than Justice Hill’s does and he has the most experience in that role for the Ravens. I know most people will be enticed by Hill’s two TD performance, and if you watched Red Zone you probably thought Hill was the clear replacement when Dobbins went down but he and Gus actually both had 8 carries and Hill only averaged 1.1 yards per carry.
Edwards also has a much better NFL track record than Hill. In fact, The Gus Bus’ track record is better than most players:
Basically, I think Hill is a bit of a trap if you think you’re getting a one-for-one workhorse replacement for Dobbins. Unfortunately, if they decide to stay in-house like this, we’re looking at a committee with Gus Edwards getting more of the early down work and Justice Hill getting the 3rd down work. I do not think the two TD performance from Hill is necessarily a concrete indication that he will be the goal-line back going forward, while that possibility exists, Gus is a more proven goal-line player than Hill.
Where this gets really muddy is if they call Melvin Gordon up from the practice squad, at that point I think we get a three-headed backfield where none of these guys are particularly predictable or usable on a week-to-week basis. I also, unfortunately, think this is the most likely scenario.
As you may be able to tell, if the Ravens’ backfield remains as-is, both guys are worthy of Waiver Wire looks. Yet, neither are worth “Number 1 Priority” claims or enormous FAAB bids given the timeshare concerns. Perhaps $10-15 tops for either, with Edwards my top pick of the bunch.
LEONARD FOURNETTE OR KAREEM HUNT – 40% LIKELY
The alternative route that the Ravens might take is to pick up Leonard Fournette or Kareem Hunt and honestly, I hope they do this. I feel like both of these players offer an upgrade over the guys currently playing for Baltimore and both offer us our best chance at seeing one guy carry a heavier load in Baltimore.
That being said, with the limited information we have right now, they could sign either of these guys or they could sign neither of them, we just don’t know.
Fournette would seem to be the best fit for the old style of Ravens offense and have similar upside to the production we got from Mark Ingram a few years back, but there’s a new OC in town, and we don’t have enough data yet to properly determine what type of running back he’d prefer so we can’t bet on Fournette who is also supposedly a little heavier this offseason than usual.
Kareem Hunt provides a skill set that is potentially more similar to that of Dobbins than Fournette but I do think Hunt has a lost a step and it has become a joke that he’s been mulling “multiple offers” for weeks which is player speak for “nobody wants to pay him what he thinks he’s worth”, not sure that the Ravens will want to either.
JONATHAN TAYLOR – 10% LIKELY
This is the one that really tickles me and also has by far the least likelihood of occurring. Reports suggest that Jonathan Taylor could pass a physical today if he had to so he should be good to roll for week 5 and he still wants out of Indy.
Previously, it was only Green Bay and Miami that sounded like they were in on him, but certainly the Ravens would be a great fit now. It sounds like Indy would demand Rashod Bateman and a pick or two based on their other negotiations which may be too much for the Ravens to give up. Still, with Zay Flowers looking good week one and the imminent return of Mark Andrews, they may feel okay leaning on OBJ as their second wideout and making a big splash for Taylor.
I know this is magical dream land most likely but damn would it make a lot of sense and be a reason for back flips if you had invested in Jonathan Taylor this year.
Bottom line, it is all speculation at this point and the Ravens have choices to make which will be far reaching to the fantasy landscape. We may have more clarity by Wednesday waiver time but as of this exact moment here is how I’m approaching potential pickups for Dobbins.
Right now I would pick up Gus Edwards first as I think he has the clearest path to 10-12 carries weekly and has a proven past. However, I expect his production to be in line with other lower to middle-end committee backs and, as such, you might be better off investing in a guy like Kyren Williams or Kenneth Gainwell if they are both still available for more upside.
Take Gus first but don’t bet the farm on him. Justice Hill should also probably be owned in 10 team leagues and larger, but again, temper your expectations.
Beyond that, keep your eyes peeled for information about the Ravens bringing players in. If they give a workout to one of the free agents, run to pick that guy up, if possible, as I think both of the big free agent names offer the best chance at Dobbins-like production whereas the current options look more like a full committee and probably do not.