I see where J.K. Dobbins says he’s anxious to build on his rookie season. He wants to carry the ball more and play a bigger role in the offseason. That kind of talk, of course, is always easier in the offseason.

Dobbins had a solid rookie season. He ran for a modest 805 yards, but he averaged 6.0 yards per carry. When the Ravens drafted him, they indicated he was the top running back on their board, and he flashed some of that kind of potential.

“I want that weight on my shoulders,” Dobbins says on the team’s website. “In clutch time, I want my teammates to look at me and be like, ‘We want him touching the ball. We want him alongside of us in clutch time.’ I thrive on things like that. I pride myself on being a playmaker. I didn’t get to show that this year. Hopefully I can share that with the whole world.”

Sounds good enough. But it’s tough building on first-year success. You’ve got to stay healthy, and some backs get derailed when defenses start making them more of a focus.

Whatever the reasons, when you look at look at running backs coming off successful first seasons, there are more misses than hits.

Consider the following chart. It shows the last 21 running backs who in their first year ran for over 600 yards and also averaged over 5 yards per carry. These are all guys who seemed to be on their way to success. (And there are two such candidates heading into this season – Dobbins and Jonathan Taylor.)

Only five of these 21 backs went on to finish with top-10 overall numbers (that’s using PPR scoring). Nine of these 21 didn’t even rank in the top 25 statistically.

More notably, only three of these 21 players finished with both more total yards (rushing and receiving) and more touchdowns. Nine finished with both fewer yards and fewer touchdowns, and another nine finished with either fewer yards or fewer touchdowns. (On the chart below, a player is tagged with a black dot for each category where he declined statistically.)

I’m not trying to put the kiss of death on either of these two most recent backs. Taylor will be in my top 10 overall. It’s early, but Dobbins more likely will be ranked somewhere in the teens among running backs. But the historically numbers suggest these backs are more likely to be fall short of playing up to where they’re drafted.

Year PlayerRunRecYdsTDPPRRk
2001•• Mike Anderson, Den.678467244106.443
2003• Clinton Portis, Den.1591314190514314.56
2005Steven Jackson, St.L.1046320136610239.69
2007•• Maurice Jones-Drew, Jac.768407117510217.511
2007• Jerious Norwood, Atl.6132778901123.042
2008• Selvin Young, Den.30316319140.982
2008• Adrian Peterson, Min.1760125188510269.59
2011•• LeGarrette Blount, T.B.7811489295137.933
2011•• Chris Ivory, N.O.3740374143.482
2012• DeMarco Murray, Dall.6632519144150.426
2014Andre Ellington, Ariz.66039510555181.519
2015• Jeremy Hill, Cin.7947987312176.320
2016•• Thomas Rawls, Sea.34996445375.562
2017•• Ezekiel Elliott, Dall.98326912529205.212
2017• Jordan Howard, Chi.112212512479201.715
2018Alvin Kamara, N.O.883709159218354.24
2019•• Saquon Barkley, NYG100343814418244.111
2019•• Phillip Lindsay, Den.101119612077197.720
2019• Nick Chubb, Cle.149427817728261.28
2019• Kerryon Johnson, Det.403127530487.054
2020•• Devin Singletary, Buff.6872699562145.632
2021Jonathan Taylor, Ind.??????
2021J.K. Dobbins, Balt.??????

—Ian Allan