Rookie Profile: Chuba Hubbard
When Chuba Hubbard decided to forgo the NFL draft and return for his Junior year, the fantasy football community was shocked. A lot of athletes return after a phenomenal year to build their draft stock, and it helps in some cases. Unfortunately for Hubbard, that wasn’t the case for his Junior year. Hubbard is one of, if not the most polarizing player in this draft class, and let’s take a look as to why.
(Picture Credit: Player Profiler)
We don’t have any accurate data or indicators for 40-yard, speed score, burst score, etc., but we have a good idea as to what it will be like. I’m expecting a 4.4 - 4.45 40-time, yet I wouldn’t be the slightest bit surprised if he was clocked in at a sub 4.4, as we’ve seen from his film that he is an absolute track-star. As for dominator and yards/carry, here are where the top backs in the nation measure up with him:
Travis Etienne - 26.4% Dominator (56th Percentile) / 6.6 (87th Percentile)
Najee Harris - 30.9% Dominator (71st Percentile) / 5.6 (65th Percentile)
Javonte Williams - 30.4% Dominator (69th Percentile) / 7.4 (94th Percentile)
Once considered the best back in the nation, it’s quite obvious why metrics-wise. Hubbard has the highest dominator rating amongst the Big 3, and anything over 40% is considered elite for a running back. Now, his YPC is on par with Harris, but this number is skewed as it takes the best season and their final season IF their final season wasn’t their best. Williams’ final season happened to be his best, so that’s where the 7.4 Y/C comes from. Had it been the same across the board of taking two seasons and finding the average, Williams would be around the same percentile as Etienne.
As a Redshirt Sophomore Hubbard broke out. After 2019 the world thought Hubbard was going to declare for the draft and forgo the remainder of his eligibility at Oklahoma State, but we were shocked. Hubbard decided to stay for his Junior season and boy, it was a rough one. Hubbard only played in 7 games before sitting out his last two with an ankle injury and then opting out the rest of the season. In those 7 games, he averaged more than a yard less per-carry than that of his second season. In 2019 we thought Chuba had no flaws, as he appeared to be absolutely perfect minus the lack of receiving work. Come 2020, we saw some flaws on film, but on paper, it seems a lot worse than it really was. Aside from injuries and playing banged up, the Oklahoma State offensive line was also dealing with the injury bug. Early(ish) in the season they lost 3 starters to injury and were constantly making adjustments. These two factors are bigger than you think and absolutely should be taken into consideration when analyzing Hubbard on paper. Despite the phenomenal 2019 season, most of us are underestimating and fading Hubbard because of 2020, but you don’t average 6.4 yards a carry on 328 attempts as a fluke; that takes serious talent.
It’s easy to go back and look at highlights of any given player, but it’s a lot more difficult to look at raw game-film. Not necessarily harder, but more difficult in the aspect that you aren’t seeing all the rainbows and butterflies that you would see with highlight reels. You have to sit through missed-holes, lazy decision-making, amongst other things. I watched 5 games from 2019 (Oklahoma, Oregon State, Texas, Texas A&M, Tulsa) and 2 games from 2020 (Iowa State and West Virginia). First, let’s start with the good in both these years, followed by the bad, and then finish with the ugly.
I’m going to start by saying that I still really like Hubbard, and am a lot higher after watching more film than most. He currently sits as my RB5. Now, right off the bat, I can tell you that as aforementioned, Hubbard is fast. I mean, really, really fast. Not only does he have the top speed of a track star (because he was one), but he has an insane amount of burst that allows him to hit holes with ease. He’s also got next-level vision and patience, which reminds me a lot of prime Le’Veon Bell in that aspect. He has all the qualities of an NFL-ready downhill runner. He’s fast, quick, elusive, has terrific vision and patience, and is able to cut back on a dime and hit holes inside and outside the tackles. In 2019 he was an extremely slippery runner, and very elusive from the waist down. Despite all this, he wasn’t the easiest to tackle from the waist up. On multiple occasions, his number was called in short-yardage situations. During these times he showed to be a very aggressive and strong runner, squaring his body up with defenders and turning that speed into strength.
(Picture Credit: RSHighlights)
Honestly, if you were to just watch the 2019 film it would seem like there were little to no bad qualities in Hubbard. It isn’t until you get to 2020 where you start to see some eyebrow-raising stuff. Before we begin, I would like to note that in no way did Hubbard lose his burst or speed - so that’s a plus. Now, in these two games that I watched, I’m not sure if his ankle injury was a factor or if this was pre-injury, but I noticed a few things that did worry me. For starters, Hubbards balance was never good. By balance, I mean the ability to stay on his feet AWAY from contact. On multiple occasions in multiple different games, there were times where Hubbard had daylight or enough open field to make a move, and he seemingly slipped or tripped over himself. To put it into perspective, imagine Daniel Jones on his 80-yard run. Now imagine a running back who probably runs a 4.4 - 4.45 40-time doing that on a consistent basis. In 2019 Hubbard was elusive and agile. He had the ability to stop on a dime and cut back or perform any sort of move in his arsenal (barring the times he slipped or tripped up). In the 2020 games, I noticed that he often seemed to have lost a step. At times, it was almost like he was too fast for his feet. His body tried to make a move and go one way, but his feet lagged and stayed behind the rest of his body.
Chuba lacks the pass-catching work that makes a lot of other prospects super attractive. This isn’t me saying that he’s an awful pass-catcher, because he is good after the catch, but it’s the lack of receptions and opportunities in the passing game that worries me moving forward. His laziness in the pass-protecting department is also something that is extremely unattractive. Perhaps it was just the snaps I saw during these games, but it looked like when he knew there was no chance his number was going to get called, he gave up on the play. He would attempt a block for a second, if that, and then stop and just look at the play unfold. He and Coach Gundy also didn’t get along, but even though I don’t think it was an attitude issue, the possibility that it could have affected his play is something that could turn me away.
DeMarco Murray, and it’s not only because their analytical profile is insanely similar, with Murray entering the NFL at 6’0” 213 lbs and Hubbard last sizing in at 6’1” 207 lbs, but they were both track stars in high school. Now, Hubbard was more than just a track star, as he was a 3-time Canadian National Champion in the 100 meter-dash, he was a world-class track star. Murray ran an official 4.41 40-time, which is in the same realm that I predict Hubbard will run but wouldn’t be surprised if he ran a much faster 40. Both are extremely fast, agile, and efficient runners who excel at downhill running. This was actually a comp I came across on a twitter-thread and after watching Murray’s film, it’s a spot-on comp.
Only 33 individuals have ever surpassed the 2,000-yard rushing mark in college, and only 17 had more rush yards than Hubbard. Out of those 17, 60% - or 10/17 of them, went on to have great success in the NFL, with some names being Barry Sanders, Marcus Allen, Derrick Henry, and LaDainian Tomlinson. I’m not saying Chubba will be like any of the aforementioned HOFers (Or future HOFers), but what I’m getting at is a good percentage of running backs who see that type of success on the ground go on to be valuable running backs, both in real football and fantasy. Hubbard has fallen into the 2nd round of 99% of rookie mock drafts, and often the LATE 2nd round. For a former 2,000-yard club member, that’s an absolute STEAL. A lot of people’s opinion on Hubbard from my experience is very landing spot dependent, and also quite dependent on what day Hubbard’s phone will ring. Most draft experts and analysts that I’ve seen have him as an end-of-day two, day three kind of back who would be the best fit as the RB2 in a committee. I personally don’t see it, and quite honestly I believe a lot of these draft and fantasy analysts are quick to forget just how spectacular Hubbard was on tape AND on paper in 2019. Perhaps I’m holding onto the past Chuba Hubbard, and the game of football is beyond him and his amazing 2019 season, but I don’t believe that’s the case.
What I do believe in is talent, and Hubbard has an astronomical amount of it. As aforementioned, Hubbard’s current going price is almost insulting all things considered, and I fully expect that he will outperform his overall ADP in 2021. Ideally, he lands in one of three spots; Atlanta, Miami, or Pittsburgh. All three of which I believe would make for PERFECT landing spots for Hubbard. If he were to land at one of those spots, or any spot where the current RB1 is that of a Chase Edmonds or Myles Gaskin type, and where the scheme makes sense, he’s a smash in the 2nd round of startups. If he were to fall into a committee, I would still draft him where he’s going but I would do so with tempered expectations and perhaps a little hesitation. He isn’t like Najee Harris who will more than likely produce right away in ANY situation, but I believe the talent is there for him to be more than worth the current going price in dynasty leagues, and you should too.