Prospect Profile: RB Chuba Hubbard
Jake Pittman - 2/1/2021
Prospect Profile: RB Chuba Hubbard
Chuba Hubbard is a 6’0" 207 pound running back from Oklahoma State University. Hubbard lit the college football world on fire in 2019 with 2094 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns. He was named the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year and was a consensus All-American. Hubbard was projected to be a late round 2 or round 3 draft-pick in 2020, but decided to return to school to improve his draft stock for 2021. His plan seems to have backfired after having a disappointing 2020 campaign plagued by injuries and low efficiency. It seems now that Hubbard should have forgone the 2020 college football season and entered the draft, but if he falls into the right place, he still has the talent to contribute at the next level.
Chuba Hubbard’s college career has been a tale of two seasons. His 2019 season was full of ground breaking plays and flashes of being a patient, strong and versatile NFL runningback. In 2020, Hubbard looked a step slower and didn’t bounce off defenders to keep his feet churning after contact in the same way that he did in 2019. This being said, I think you have to look at a player like Hubbard as a combination of the promise he showed in 2019 and the concerns that manifested in 2020.
Hubbard is not a huge back, but has shown at times to have a good ability to use his powerful legs to get extra yardage.Hubbard is very fast, as he was a 3-time 100-meter dash champion in Canada, but his acceleration is what made him such an explosive player. He is able to quickly reach top speed and torch teams when given a small gap. He has also shown a very elite level of patience during his time in college, waiting for holes to develop in front of him, then sticking his foot in the ground and dashing forward. Even after seeming to be a little slower in 2020, his patience was still very evident. Hubbard would be best suited for a team with a good offensive line that operates out of a zone running scheme.Hubbard hasn’t offered a ton of experience in the receiving game, but has shown to have smooth hands and good vision out of the screen game. His pass protection leaves much to be desired, but that seems to almost always be the case with rookie runners.
Hubbard has shown some troubling tendencies. He has good vision and knows where he needs to go, but sometimes his eyes and his body get moving before his feet do. This leads him to lose his balance on a lot of runs, even without any contact from defenders. He will often times explode through a hole after waiting for it to develop, and then stumble and either fall down or severely hinder the high-end potential of a lot of plays. Also, in 2020, unlike the prior season, he did not show his ability to bounce off defenders. He was brought down pretty easily by corners and safeties when he did break into the second level. This is very concerning as an NFL prospect. Elite college runners like Najee Harris and Jonathan Taylor are rarely ever tackled by one member of the second level. Considering how much better NFL corners and safeties are than the competition he faced in the Big 12, if this trend continues he will have very little upside as a featured NFL running back. He will never be the type of back to bulldoze over defenders and make them pay for getting in his way, but he needs to at least display the ability to make them miss or bounce off of him.
I would compare Chuba Hubbard to former Oklahoma Sooners runner and current player for the Kansas City Chiefs, RB Damien Williams. Like Hubbard, Williams is a very similar size and speed comparison. They both having blazing top-end speed, but lack a lot of the necessary attributes to truly thrive as an NFL running back. I do believe though, that in a similar fashion to Williams, Hubbard can make an impact at the next level using his speed and ball carrier vision to break off big plays in a secondary role. Williams has proven to overcome his short-comings to provide outstanding production. This was highlighted especially in the 2020 Super Bowl against the San Francisco 49ers, when Williams broke off multiple big plays and arguably deserved to win the MVP. Hubbard can make a similar splash, if given the opportunity in a high-caliber offense.
Most Likely Landing Spots:
The Pittsburgh Steelers have been looking for a replacement for star RB LeVeon Bell for quite some time now, and for a while it seemed like RB James Conner was going to be the answer for them. But, after a few injury plagued seasons and low efficiency metrics, the Steelers may be looking for a fresh start at the position in the upcoming draft. Hubbard displays a few a few of the traits that Mike Tomlin looks for in his backfield. Specifically, Hubbard’s speed, patience and vision are traits that Tomlin loves to see his backs display in his zone running offense. RB Benny Snell currently looks like he will have a role in the offense in the near future, but Hubbard and Snell could pair well as a "Thunder and Lightning" approach. In Pittsburgh, Hubbard would project to be a week to week "boom or bust" player who could have a chance to break off a big play at any given moment, but with little to no consistency. He would most likely finish as no higher than a low-end RB3
RB Todd Gurley’s time as an elite NFL producer seems to have come and gone as arthritis in his knees has hindered his explosive play-making ability. RB Brian Hill and RB Ito Smith have shown little promise in their limited play and new head coach Arthur Smith may be looking to find a new running back to place into his system. While a player like RB Najee Harris or RB Trey Sermon may fit his scheme a little better, they will cost a much higher draft pick. The Falcons have so many needs on defense that a running back selection may have to wait until later in the draft. This is where Hubbard may be able to slot in as a value for the Falcons on day 3 of the 2021 NFL Draft. His explosiveness could offer an element to the Falcons offense that they have desperately needed since the rise and fall of former Falcons RB Devonta Freeman. In Atlanta, Hubbard could be a tremendous value in fantasy drafts if he were to win the starting role. With the Falcons subpar defense and explosive offense there would be an opportunity for a lot of fantasy production from the running back position. As the starter, he would have the chance to finish as a low-end RB2, but with the crowded backfield as it stands now I would project him to be a high-upside RB3.
Las Vegas Raiders:
As many of us are painfully aware of, Raider’s Head Coach Jon Gruden prefers to not give one running back all of the work. RB Josh Jacobs, RB Devontae Booker and RB Jalen Richard handled the work out of the backfield in 2020, but with Booker’s contract expiring, the Raiders may look to add another player to their running back room. Hubbard would offer a nice secondary option to Jacobs, but would be in no way a challenger to overtake him from his role. This landing spot would make Hubbard no more than a handcuff for Jacobs considering Jacob will get the bulk of the running work and Richard will receive the majority of pass catching work. He would more than likely have no fantasy relevance in 2021 at this landing spot.
While Hubbard showed many great abilities during his phenomenal 2019 campaign, his injury concerns and tackle breaking issues will more than likely push him down many team’s draft boards. I project him to be a day 3 pick in this year’s draft, but if he goes to the right team he could offer a lot of value in fantasy drafts due to his explosive play-making ability, patience and vision.
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