Former Tennessee quarterback Joshua Dobbs has never halfway done anything.
From the moment he decided to play football at a young age, he was all-in. He was good enough at baseball to play collegiately. If there was a club to be in during high school, Dobbs was a member. Volunteer work? How about every week. Impacting lives? Countless people in countless ways, including kids that are afflicted by life-altering issues.
He is outspoken about an alopecia condition that affects him and many others, and he became best buds with a Knoxville-area kid battling cancer. Oh, and maybe you’ve heard of his scholastic achievements, majoring in aerospace engineering at Tennessee while absorbing the phonebook-sized playbook that comes with every SEC starting signal-caller gig.
So, why should you be surprised Dobbs is suddenly becoming one of the surging prospects leading up to next week’s draft? It’s just Dobbs going out and seizing the opportunity to fulfill his dream of playing on the next level.
Doubters gonna doubt. Dobbs gonna shed ’em like would-be tacklers. Rinse, repeat. Same thing that happened during his entire Tennessee career.
Many want to talk about him being the next Dak Prescott. I’ve uttered that he has that ability myself, and even Jon Gruden compared the two in the latest episode of Gruden’s QB Camp, according to WATE reporter Emily Proud: “I saw something special in Dak Prescott last year and, I’m not saying I’m always right, but I see it in [Josh Dobbs] too,” Proud tweeted, quoting Gruden.
That’s high praise for Dobbs, comparing him to a player who took the NFL by storm in 2016, usurping All-Pro Tony Romo following an injury and causing Dallas to move away from the Romo era. As a matter of fact, it may be too high. Why can’t Dobbs just be Dobbs? He’s improved every year, and with some actual coaching at the position, he can certainly play on the next level. At what level? Let him prove that.
We always get caught up in comparing Amateur Player X to Professional Player Y, just like we compare High School Player X to College Player Y. It’s unhealthy, and it’s irrational. Dobbs can pave his own way, as he’s proven the past several months.
After his Tennessee career dwindled, many pro scouts were talking about Dobbs switching positions on the next level after latching onto a team with a free-agent contract because he almost certainly wouldn’t be drafted. Then, he crept into a few [worthless] mock drafts as a late-round pick as his name began to float out there as a potential sleeper.
After a quality Senior Bowl outing where he completed 12-of-15 passes for 104 yards and an interception, he saw his name move into the fifth round of some mocks. Dobbs then looked great at the NFL Combine and at UT’s Pro Day, he had what Tennessee director of player personnel Bob Welton, a former NFL scout, told Mike Griffith was the best workout for NFL scouts he’s ever seen.
Is that hyperbole? Maybe. Welton is a close friend of Butch Jones, after all. But maybe it wasn’t too far off.
Like everything else in his life, Dobbs’ pro day was self-made, and, like Welton, many were impressed.
“Joshua Dobbs was his own quarterback guru, scripting his own plays for the workout portion of the pro day,” wrote senior analyst Gil Brandt at NFL.com. “He started with four go routes and dropped each into the bucket. He ended with four go-routes and threw perfect passes about 50 yards down the field.”
Much like was the case while in Knoxville, Dobbs was his own quarterbacks coach that day.
So, how much will it all ultimately pay off? That’s the ultimate question here, isn’t it? Well, the answer is as tough to tackle as Dobbs in the open field. CBS Sports has him projected in the sixth round. ESPN.com noted draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. believes the 6’3″, 216-pound dual-threat signal-caller could be taken as high as the second or third round. Teams such as the Browns and Texans—two teams desperate for quarterbacks—visited with Dobbs in the past week. Maybe they’re seeing what I see:
He’s worth the gamble, folks.
We always get caught up in measurables and workouts, and all of those are incredibly important. But Dobbs has experienced high marks in both areas. Look at his college body of work. There was inconsistency, but there is also constant improvement despite a lack of singular coaching focus on his position. He finished his UT career leading the SEC in total offensive yards per game, passing efficiency, touchdown passes and non-kicking points accounted for in 2016, and he added 713 yards and nine touchdowns rushing. That’s why he was named the league’s Offensive Player of the Year.
If you want a player with a high upside as an athlete, he’s one of the three potential steals alongside Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes. If he develops, you’ve got the intelligent, articulate, well-rounded poster boy for your franchise, somebody who not only won’t embarrass you off the field but also make you proud he’s yours. For a Cleveland franchise that drafted Johnny Manziel, he’d be the antithesis.
He’s the kind of player who can help you in a lot of ways, including on the sideline, on the practice field and in the community. And that’s only if he doesn’t star on Sundays, which certainly isn’t out of the question.
Dobbs has some question marks, but, really, how much bigger are they than any other gamble in the draft once you get past the mid-second round?
Sure, he’s raw—frustratingly so for UT fans who watched him lead the Vols through parts of the past four seasons. But that’s only because head coach Butch Jones stubbornly failed to hire a quarterbacks coach until a player who desperately needed one exhausted eligibility. What did Dobbs do? He improved each season under center despite having a grizzly, old offensive line coach tutoring him at the position.
Was his footwork great? Is his arm elite? Is his release point consistent? Did he always make the best decisions? No, but how many games did Dobbs win just being Dobbs? How many touchdowns did he score at pivotal times? How many players missed the magician in the open field when he took off with the rush?
Despite being a polarizing quarterback during much of his Tennessee career, Dobbs at times single-handedly led the offense to huge numbers. He was a transcendent athlete who’ll be desperately missed in Knoxville, whether you believe that now or not. The Vols haven’t had somebody who could take over games at the position like him since Peyton Manning, and they’ve not had a runner as effective as him at the position since Condredge Holloway.
That’s two legends, and it’s two players Dobbs doesn’t need to be compared to. But to be spoken in the same sentence as either of those two players is high praise. In case you’re keeping track at home, one of those was an NFL star; the other didn’t make it despite putting up some nice numbers in the Canadian Football League. One was a prototypical dropback passer, and the other was more of a run-first guy. Where does Dobbs fall? Somewhere in the middle of the two, much like his pro potential.
Many people will write many words about Dobbs over the course of his career, no matter how long or short it is. His performances in all the practice-atmosphere settings have warranted articles in previous weeks, and now everybody has an opinion on his stock, his ceiling and his pro ability. The team that drafts him will watch as beat writers file plenty of stories rehashing the same things said here through mini-camp and leading up to the season, maybe onward after that.
Some will talk about how Dobbs will be a star. Many others will talk about why he’ll be a flop.
You’ll get no prediction either way here. All I’m going to say is the kid has shown he deserves a chance, just by his college body of work, the way he conducts himself off the field and the brilliant things he does on it. I’ve said it for years, and other former naysayers are seeing it now and writing as much. He’s proven he can wow the crowd in big opportunities, and it couldn’t happen to a better kid, somebody who works just as hard to be good off the field as on it; maybe more so.
He’s going to sign a contract and make some big bucks. He’s going to give his dream a swing, and if it doesn’t work out, you know what? He’s proven he’ll undoubtedly go pro [and be successful] in something other than sports.
He’s not the next superstar rookie like Dak Prescott. He won’t be the next big-name bust like Robert Griffin III.
He’s Joshua Dobbs. And that’s been good enough so far. Who’s gonna bet against the future?