- Valentine's Day jokes? Snatching towels from opposing quarterbacks? Bradley Chubb sounds like a prankster, but his tape speaks for itself, and those close to him—from his coaches to NC State's SID—say that the NFL draft's top pass rusher is the complete package.
RALEIGH, N.C. — Bradley Chubb, the best pass-rushing prospect in this year’s NFL draft, is a jokester and a habitual towel thief. More on the latter later—first, a look into Chubb’s mind.
After consulting with his family and Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren, Chubb decided at the beginning of last year that he would return to NC State for his senior season, even though defensive line coach Ryan Nielsen took a job with the New Orleans Saints.
Just before Valentine’s Day in 2017, the Wolfpack announced the hiring of a new defensive line coach. Enter Kevin Patrick, who was a former two-time national champ with the Miami Hurricanes and 1992 Big East Defensive Player of the Year before joining the coaching ranks. Chubb was the first player to meet Patrick when he arrived on campus, and quickly the stud defensive end realized his coach has a stereotypical ‘serious football coach’ demeanor.
To test his new coach’s limits, Chubb went to a nearby dollar store and bought about 15 Valentine’s Day cards, wrote “Can’t wait to meet you! Coach KP” on the inside and placed them in the lockers of his fellow defensive linemen.
“I’m going to have to ask Chubb about that,” Patrick tells The MMQB Monday afternoon, having never before heard that story more than a year after the prank was pulled. “I got to grab him. That’s funny, man.”
For the past year or so, Chubb’s personality has been on display alongside his football talents in a fashion similar to Von Miller. And his personality has attracted a following of sorts. At his pro day on Monday, NFL Films was there, taping Chubb’s every step. Chubb is also taking part in a six-video series with his cousin and former Georgia running back Nick Chubb in partnership with Chubb Insurance, a publicly traded insurance company that happens to share a name with the draft prospects.
What’s most important, though, is that Chubb rushes the passer like Miller does more than he acts like him in front of the camera—and that’s clear to the top prospect. He went through the gauntlet of position drills at defensive end (no scout or coach from any of the 32 teams represented Monday wasted time putting the 275-pound 4-3 defensive end through linebacker drills). And apparently unsatisfied with his 4.41-second 20-yard shuttle time at the combine, a time that ranked fourth among all defensive linemen in Indianapolis, Chubb shaved his time to 4.34 seconds Monday and chose to sit on the rest of his combine numbers.
As a pass-rushing prospect out of NC State, Chubb is second only to Mario Williams, who went No. 1 overall in 2006. Chubb, a former three-star recruit, had 5 1/2 sacks his sophomore year, 9 1/2 sacks his junior season and then 10 in his senior campaign where he earned the Bronko Nagurski award for the nation’s top defender.
Chubb would have likely been a first-rounder had he chosen to enter the draft last year, but he chose to stay in school to work on his secondary moves and stamina. Chubb’s long arm had been lethal in ACC play, but he would have been figured out if that’s all he had going into 2017. So his hands got more violent and faster as he also worked on his counter moves. Along the way he developed greater endurance, and Doeren saw his stud pass rusher making more plays at the end of each half this past season.
Patrick, the defensive line coach, said he heard multiple times Monday from coaches who raved about Chubb’s relentlessness during the drills.
“He never stops. His effort is unbelievable,” Patrick says. “They were preaching to the choir but it’s always impressive when they talk about a 275-pound guy who is relentless.”
At least a third of all NFL defensive line coaches attended this pro day, which was packed with line prospects other than Chubb. B.J. Hill stood out as second-best on the day while Justin Jones and Kentavius Street both performed well. The only head coach in attendance was Patriots’ Bill Belichick, who put the linemen through their final bag drill before introducing himself to Chubb.
“We’re picking 31st,” Belichick said to Chubb. “Not a chance we’ll see you there.”
On Sunday Chubb met with three of the six teams picking the top seven (the Browns have picks No. 1 and 4), and on Monday he had meetings set up with two others. Agent Erik Burkhardt has remained mum about which teams, though.
It’s difficult to imagine the Colts and Buccaneers aren’t among those teams, though. Bucs GM Jason Licht was the only general manager to show up to the pro day and Tampa Bay has a need at defensive end even with the addition of Vinny Curry. The Colts have most closely been associated with Chubb, and their defensive line coach Mike Phair kept a close eye on Chubb throughout the workouts.
Pick any mock draft published before last weekend, and it likely had Chubb slotted as the No. 3 going to Indianapolis. Then the Colts traded down to 6 with the Jets—Chubb was playing NBA 2K when his roommate got an alert on his phone, to which Chubb replied “Oh… O.K.”—but they still figure to be in the Chubb sweepstakes, one spot ahead of the Buccaneers.
“I feel like I’m a top-five caliber player,” Chubb said, “but if I get drafted seventh, eighth, it doesn’t matter to me.”
Because the tape, the combine and the pro day workout all speak for themselves, NFL types ask Chubb’s college coaches about his personality, and that’s where this distinction is important. Chubb is quick to make a joke, but it’s clear that he’s not the class clown. I spoke with several people close to him—his agent, his girlfriend, his coaches and even NC State’s sports information director who has hosted Chubb and others at her house for years—who all say he’s well aware when he needs to be serious.
Back to the towel-stealing … that lies somewhere between Chubb being serious and joking. It’s unclear when this thievery began, but throughout the season Chubb was regularly spotted swiping towels dangling from opposing quarterbacks’ hip pockets. Of course, questions about the heists came up throughout his meetings at the combine.
“The only thing I told them was it was something I did to get in people’s heads. That’s how I play the game,” Chubb says. “I always do stuff. If it’s the smallest advantage, I’m going to do it. I did it every game pretty much and some quarterbacks let it go. But Clemson caught it and he was bothered by it. He kept trying to get his towel back. I saw it bothered him so I kept doing it and trying to get him out of his game and got caught on the skycam.”
Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant is the most notable Chubb victim. Three times Chubb snatched Bryant’s towel during Clemson’s 38–31 win in Raleigh. The first time, Bryant noticed it but let it go. The second time, Chubb employed an old pickpocket maneuver by bumping into Bryant while slipping the towel away. No immediate reaction from Bryant.
The third time, though, Bryant had enough. Chubb crept up behind and snatched the towel and Bryant turned around immediately. A Clemson offensive lineman held Chubb up to return Mr. Bryant’s property to him. An official would later talk to Chubb about his antics, but Chubb never got an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for his heists all season.
“Like I told all our guys,” Doeren says, “if you play the way he’s playing, no, I do not have an issue with it.
“He wasn’t a player—really until this year—that drew a lot of personal attention. He had made a lot of plays but he was creative this year in his branding. He earned that. It was fun.”
It was fun? Chubb isn’t ruling out continuing the tradition in the NFL.
“It just depends,” he says. “A lot of the stuff just comes to me at the spur of the moment.”