On The Mend: Nick Chubb Injury Update and Fantasy Outlook vs Jerome Ford

Nick Chubb expects to play for the Browns this season, but when should you draft him vs his teammate?
Sep 10, 2023; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) runs the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals during the third quarter at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 10, 2023; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) runs the ball against the Cincinnati Bengals during the third quarter at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports / Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Nick Chubb expects to play with the Cleveland Browns this season. Exactly when that will be is more difficult to determine. No timeline has been set for his return.

Browns fans were heartbroken to see one of the NFL's best runners go down with an injury in Week 2 of the NFL season. Chubb tore both his ACL and MCL after taking a hit on the left knee from Pittsburgh's Minkah Fitzpatrick. Two surgeries were required to repair the damage: the MCL was immediately repaired, followed by a second surgery to repair the ACL in November. 

Chubb also suffered an injury to the same knee in 2015 at the University of Georgia. Despite tearing the PCL, MCL, and LCL in that injury, Chubb was drafted by the Browns and put up outstanding numbers after surgery on the three ligaments.

Chubb finished 2022 with a career-high 1,525 rushing yards (third in the NFL), and he has exceeded 1,000 rushing yards in four of his five healthy NFL seasons - the outlier being his rookie season when he ran for 996.

Due to the injury, Chubb is not practicing at OTAs but remains bullish about playing this season, which is still three months away.   

Chubb should be able to run in time to start the season, but will he be able to cut and trust his knee enough to return to form? That's the four-million-dollar question.

In the offseason, the Browns reduced Chubb's salary by around $4 million but gave him the opportunity to make up for it in incentives. In other words: Chubb has every reason to excel in his age-28 season. 

There's no question Chubb will be back on the field this year. However, the key concerns are the timing of his return and his effectiveness post-injury. This situation is likely to lead to a heavier workload for Jerome Ford at the start of the season. 

Let's examine a similar case study from last year. Jonathan Taylor suffered a similar injury in Week 4 of the 2022 season, and fantasy managers had to determine what level of risk they could tolerate when drafting him for 2023.  

Taylor started for the Colts in Week 5, but did not return to form until Week 7. He also missed weeks 13-15 before finishing strong as what would have been RB3 in PPR leagues in Week 18 of the season (unfortunately, most fantasy leagues don't include Week 18).  

Taylor finished as the RB33 overall, but the RB8 per game in PPR leagues. 

Teammate Zack Moss, who started the season as the Colts' primary running back, finished as the RB29 overall and the RB25 per game. 

No two players are alike, but let's look at Nick Chubb's ADP. Chubb is coming off the board as the RB 36 - three spots lower than how Taylor finished in 2023.  

Jerome Ford, who finished as the RB17 overall and the RB26 on a per-game basis, is coming off the board as the RB 41. Right now, both runners look like they present value in a run-heavy offense under Kevin Stefanski. 

Don't forget D'onta Foreman as a late-value pick as well. Should Chubb start slowly, Foreman will get work behind Ford.   

Foreman had a few productive games for the Bears last season when given the opportunity. Since the Browns got Foreman as extra insurance, as a later pick in your draft, perhaps you should too.


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Jennifer Piacenti

JENNIFER PIACENTI

In addition to being a fantasy sports and betting analyst at Sports Illustrated, Jennifer is a radio host for Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio, and she hosts her own podcast, “Waiver Wired” on the Extra Points podcast network. Jennifer has been nominated for multiple FSWA awards for her NFL DFS video series. She’s a Scott Fish Bowl Finalist, and she finished third overall in the 2021 NFFC post-season mini. Jennifer is also a featured expert on MLB Network’s “Bettor’s Eye,” and a member of the esteemed Tout Wars, the fantasy baseball battle of the experts.