We Need To Talk About Nick Chubb
I write this article with a heavy heart. When it comes to Nick Chubb, my fanboyism (Yes I’m aware that’s not a word but I’m in great pain) knows no bounds.
I fell in love from the moment he appeared at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine posting a 4.52 in the 40 yard dash, 29 reps on the bench press, a 38.5-inch vertical jump and a 128-inch broad jump through to his impressive rookie season which he set alight once the Browns finally dumped the abysmal Carlos Hyde on my own Jacksonville Jaguars in mid-season (Thanks very much for that one, Cleveland).
Starting with a monster Week 10 vs the Atlanta Falcons in which he posted 35.9 PPR Points, he reeled off a further three straight RB1 performances from Week 12-14 against the Cincinnati Bengals (27.8 PPR Pts), Houston Texans (16.2 PPR Pts) and the Carolina Panthers (18.3 PPR Points).
A relatively quiet final three weeks of the season couldn’t dampen my excitement of seeing what he could do heading into his sophomore year. Then came the kicker……
On February 11th 2019, the Cleveland Browns announced that they had signed Kareem Hunt on a one year deal. At the time, Hunt was on the Commissioners Exempt List awaiting an expected suspension from the NFL which would eventually be confirmed for the first eight games of the 2019 Season.
Throughout the offseason, talk swirled around how Kareem Hunt would affect Nick Chubb’s opportunity and production once he returned in the second half of the year. To which I ignorantly and figuratively stuck my fingers in my ears and continued to reach for him in dynasty and redraft wherever I possibly could. I took the short term view in redraft leagues that I would worry about it once we ‘crossed that bridge’ and told myself that Hunt would merely be a supporting piece or a third down back who would ‘take weeks to get up to speed’……..Idiot.
For the first six weeks of the 2020 Season I felt like the leader of the ‘Nick Chubb Dance Party’ as he posted four RB1 weeks including a complete dismantling of the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4 and the Seattle Seahawks in Week 6 .
After six week of the season, Chubb had a total of 129.5 PPR Points and was averaging 21.58 PPG which was good for the RB4 in PPR Leagues behind only Christian McCaffrey, Austin Ekeler and Dalvin Cook.
For perspective, and to ensure we are not interpreting the statistics how we wish in order to support the point, it would be remiss of me not to mention that he did cool down in the two weeks that followed his Week 7 bye which came prior to Kareem Hunt’s Week 10 Debut. He finished as a respectable RB2 in Week 8 vs the New England Patriots daunting Defense with 14.8 Points and a high end RB3 in Week 9 vs the Denver Broncos with 13.1 Points. This led to his production looking like this at the midway point of his season:
In the two weeks prior to Hunt’s return, Chubb fell to the RB6 on the season and his average PPG had dropped slightly to 19.68, still well inside the bracket of an RB1. Had he maintained this production over his remaining eight games of the season he would have been projected to finish the year with an outstanding return of 314.88 Points which would have been good enough to be the RB4 behind only Christian McCaffrey, Aaron Jones & Ezekiel Elliot.
Unfortunately, then came the return of Kareem Hunt. A quick look at the Game Splits via RotoViz.com immediately shows us the impact he had on Nick Chubb’s production and proved my ‘sticking fingers in my ears’ strategy to be erroneous. Hunt was used as much more than a third down back and severely ate in to Chubb’s opportunity and production.
Kareem Hunt proved to be a target monster out of the backfield with both players on the field together and it was these targets which ate the most in to Chubb’s production. Without Hunt in the fold, Nick Chubb was on pace for 50 receptions, 64 targets & 322 receiving yards over the full season but these projections dip severely ‘in split’ with Kareem Hunt at 22 receptions, 36 targets, and 234 receiving yards. In terms of what we care about most, his projected PPR points over a full season fell from 315 (19.66 PPG) to 208 (12.97 PPG). Over the full season, 208 points would have seen him finish as the RB18 behind Kenyan Drake and only slightly ahead of Devonta Freeman.
Looking ahead, Browns General Manager Andrew Berry has confirmed that they plan to tender Kareem Hunt (who is a restricted Free Agent this offseason) and if no team matches the Browns offer sheet Hunt will again be a Brown in 2020.
If he does indeed re-sign, even the most ardent Nick Chubb fans (and I consider myself #1 if you hadn’t noticed already) must reassess his value. In dynasty I am continuing to hold my fingers in my ears possibly to my own detriment. At 24 years of age, he still has a number of years left in his prime and his supreme level of talent means I still consider him a top Running Back in startup drafts this summer as I don't believe Kareem Hunt will be in Cleveland long term. In redraft leagues however, Nick Chubb is currently being drafted as the RB9 according to FFPC Best Ball ADP and at that price I would be staying well clear.