• Two experts debate whether or not to pick Browns RB Nick Chubb in the first round this fantasy season.
By Frankie Taddeo and Adam Ronis
August 26, 2019

Frankie “Fantasy” Taddeo: Taddeo is the 2017 and 2018 PlayFFWC.com Top 100 Players in the World Invitational champion.

Arguably, the player to see the biggest ADP surge since the start of August is Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb. The second-year back out of Georgia has been rising up draft boards as the fantasy landscape in high-stakes drafts over at the Fantasy Football World Championships  continue to evolve. Chubb was seen going in the mid-to-late second round in mid-July, but in the past few weeks of drafts is requiring mid-to-late first-round draft capital. Last season, Chubb fell just shy of the century mark in rushing (996) and found paydirt 10 times in his rookie campaign. The powerful back finished with a 5.2 yds per rush and only New York Giants sensation Saquon Barkley finished with more runs of 20 yards or more. The numbers Chubb put up become even more impressive when you dive in deeper and see he had only 16 carries in the Browns first six games in 2018. Once Hyde was traded to Jacksonville in Week 7, Chubb took the ball and off he ran as the Browns bellcow back. 

A few weeks back, the Browns traded third-down pass-catching back Duke Johnson to the Houston Texans. However, before fantasy owners start drafting Chubb with a high first-round pick, it is vital to understand the risk when drafting him this year. There is no doubt that with the defections mentioned above of Hyde and Johnson that Chubb will be the No. 1 back to start the season. Plus this will be one of the most talented offensive teams in the league. Heck, a case can be made that Chubb could be the top scoring player at his position in fantasy football through the first 10 weeks. Now, perhaps you may be wondering why I am using the first 10 weeks as my benchmark and not a full season of games? One name. Kareem Hunt. The talented back, formerly of the Kansas City Chiefs, is suspended for the first eight weeks of the season. With the Browns being assigned their bye in Week 7, Hunt gains his eligibility to return in Week 10 when Cleveland faces Buffalo at FirstEnergy Stadium. 

As all fantasy owners astutely know it's not how your fantasy team starts but instead the firepower you possess after Week 13. The Browns have juicy fantasy playoff matchups facing Cincinnati at home in Week 14, at Arizona in Week 15 before a home tilt versus Baltimore in Week 16—that could have the AFC North crown at stake. It is safe to assume that Hunt will be eased slowly into the Browns offense in Weeks 10 to 13. The mid-season threat of Hunt is real and can not be underestimated by fantasy owners. There is no argument that all fantasy owners need their cornerstone investment players to show up in the fantasy playoffs if they have any hope of raising their league trophy. If you’re betting on Chubb you need to make sure you also invest in the running back position in rounds two or three or both with players like Le'Veon Bell, Dalvin Cook, Joe Mixon, Devonta Freeman or Aaron Jones. 

You need to make sure you have depth at the position, because should the Browns take a committee approach, it will become impossible to guess which of the talented backs gets the work when your fantasy life is on the line. Chubb could easily finish as an RB1 at seasons end because of the numbers he will accrue in Weeks 1 to 9, but it's the potential substantial drop-off from the expected point production of first-round equity that causes trepidation. I will limit my exposure to Chubb in high-stakes leagues this year because the risk of Hunt cutting into his production during the fantasy playoffs is just too high for a consistent first-round investment.

Adam Ronis: Ronis has won six figures playing fantasy football and has hosted fantasy shows on Sirius XM Fantasy Sports Radio since 2010.

Nick Chubb should be drafted in the first round. The Browns running back showed what he could do last year when given the touches and excelled. The spot is better for him in 2019. He didn't get a big workload until Week 7, and in the final 10 games, Chubb had 823 rushing yards and six touchdowns. 

Once he took over as the starter, Chubb averaged 17.6 carries per game, including at least 18 carries in seven of 10 games. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry and had 20 receptions for 149 yards and two touchdowns. For the season, Chubb had 192 carries for 996 yards (5.2 yards per carry) with eight touchdowns. According to Pro Football Focus, Chubb was first in elusive rating, first in yards after contact per attempt and tied for second in fantasy points per snap among running backs with at least 125 carries in 2018.

While he wasn't heavily involved in the passing game, Chubb showed the ability to catch the football. With Duke Johnson traded to the Texans, Chubb should see more targets in the passing game early in the season and Browns running back coach Stump Mitchell said that would be the case.

The Browns offensive line hasn't looked good in the preseason, but the line didn't help him much last season. Chubb saw eight-man fronts on 34.4% of his carries last year, and that's likely to change with Baker Mayfield in his second season and the addition of wide receiver Odell Beckham

The Browns offense is projected to be one of the better ones in football, and they should be in the red zone often, leading to plenty of opportunities for Chubb. The offense was better after Freddie Kitchens took over as coach and Todd Monken was brought over from Tampa Bay to be the offensive coordinator. 

Of course, detractors are going to point out the return of Kareem Hunt from an eight-game suspension hurting Chubb's value. It's possible that happens, but if the offense is rolling and Chubb is performing well, it's difficult to see the touches drop significantly. Hunt is an excellent back and will play a role. Many people are assuming the Browns will keep Chubb fresh for a playoff run when Hunt returns, but what if the team is 4-4 or 5-3 and needs Chubb? 

We all know things change quickly in the NFL, and the goal is to get into the fantasy playoffs. Even if Chubb loses some touches to Hunt, build your running back depth, and monitor the waiver wire. Running backs always emerge late in the season, as Damien Williams and Justin Jackson showed last season.

Chubb is talented, proved it at the NFL level, and is in a terrific offense that will provide plenty of scoring opportunities. Don't overthink things—Draft Chubb in the first round.

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