One of the more shocking events in recent NFL Draft memory was when Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard opted to return to school following his electric 2019 campaign. The 6-foot, 207-pound back is an explosive one-cut runner, who is capable of taking it the distance any time he has the ball in his hands. Hubbard is the quintessential upside pick for fantasy football managers, as we approach 2021 rookie drafts.
In the 33 career games played, Hubbard averaged just under six yards per carry during his collegiate career. His 2019 season brought him to the forefront for many dynasty and devy fantasy managers, as he exploded for 2,094 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns. As a result, he was named a finalist for the Doak Walker Award, the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and earned unanimous All-American honors. Unfortunately, his 2020 season failed to live up to those same standards, as he rushed for just 625 yards on 133 attempts in the seven games he appeared in.
Film Review: Strengths and Weaknesses
Speed kills in the NFL and Hubbard has it in spades. His acceleration and top-end speed make him a true burner who can take it to the house at any given moment. Hubbard shows patience behind the line of scrimmage and has the vision to properly identify rushing lanes as they open. In an outside-zone running scheme, Hubbard could thrive and post monster numbers. His vision and patience shine on inside runs, as he demonstrates excellent vision, which allows him to burst through holes and accelerate for extra yards after contact.
The passing game is where Hubbard has the biggest opportunity for growth. He struggles in pass protection and needs to improve upon his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He has never posted more than 229 receiving yards in a single season and that was back in 2018, during his redshirt freshman season. If he can improve as a receiver, his speed would enable him to be developed into an incredible multi-dimensional weapon. He will also need to hone his skills as a pass-protector, in order to ensure that he can remain on the field as often as possible.
Even though his 2020 season was down statistically Hubbard is an upside swing worth taking for NFL teams and fantasy managers in rookie drafts. If he lands with a team that utilizes a zone blocking scheme such as the Miami Dolphins or Atlanta Falcons the sky is the limit for his fantasy value. Elite speed like Hubbard possesses will always find its way onto the field in the NFL and fantasy managers willing to roll the dice on him in rookie drafts could be rewarded in a huge way.
Pro Day Performance
40 Yard Dash: 4.50
Short Shuttle: 4.30
3 Cone: 7.28
The Carolina Panthers selected Chuba Hubbard with the 21st pick in the fourth round, selection 126 overall.
There of course is a fantasy superstar ahead of Hubbard on the Carolina depth chart in Christian McCaffrey. Running backs often miss games throughout the season and you can see it as recently as last year when McCaffrey missed the majority of the season. If something unfortunate like that were to happen again, Hubbard would step into a nearly every-down role similar to what we saw with Mike Davis last year. Protecting yourself if you are a manager who rosters McCaffrey by selecting Hubbard in rookie drafts is a sound strategy. In a running back class that lacks clarity outside of the top few options, there are far worse gambles to take than one who’s proven he can win with elite speed and acceleration in the running game in his college career.
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