2021 NFL Draft Rookie Profile: Chuba Hubbard (Fantasy Football)
Chuba Hubbard was once regarded as one of the top RB prospects in this upcoming rookie class, next to Najee Harris and Travis Etienne. However, a decline in production this past season has led to a significant fall from grace for the Cowboys RB. He is currently projected to be a late day 2/early day 3 pick in this year’s draft, which means he might not have premium draft capital tied to his NFL career. Regardless, there are a lot of positives in Chuba’s game that could make him an appealing fantasy RB if he lands in the right situation.
Editors Note: This article is part of our Rookie Profile series going on until the 2021 NFL Draft. For more on each rookie, check out Andy, Mike, and Jason’s exclusive rookie rankings and production profiles found only in the Dynasty Pass, part of the brand-new UDK+ for 2021.
College Production Profile
Chuba Hubbard, a native of Edmonton, Canada, would redshirt his first year in college with Justice Hill leading the Cowboys backfield in 2017. According to an interview with Hubbard, despite not playing a single game, he used that first year as an opportunity to gain muscle and further improve his game. It would not be until 2018, his redshirt-Freshman season, where he would slowly carve out a role in the Cowboys’ offense. After primarily playing as the RB2 early on that year, Hubbard would finally take over in the final four games, accounting for about 88.7% of the team’s rushing production to end the season.
The 2019 season would be his breakout campaign, operating as the unquestioned lead RB for Oklahoma State. Hubbard would accumulate 2,292 (!!) scrimmage yards and 21 total touchdowns, averaging an 86% RB dominator rating. For reference, neither Etienne, Harris, or Javonte Williams achieved a season that exceeded all of those numbers. Hubbard would lead the NCAA in scrimmage yards, touchdowns, and rushing attempts, and was unanimously selected as a first-team All-American. It was a truly impressive performance for the Cowboys running back, which led many to believe that he would declare for the NFL draft. However, Hubbard chose to stay for one more year.
As I mentioned in my DeVonta Smith prospect profile, we usually want to see players declare as soon as possible. However, if they do stay for one more season, you want to see them absolutely dominate. For Smith, it worked out perfectly. For Chuba, on the other hand, it did not. Despite still averaging 70% of the RB production on a per-game basis, his total yards per game would decline by 45% in 2020. We would also see his receiving yards market share dip from a career-high 7% in 2019 down to 4% the following season. Several factors contributed to this, including an ankle injury that many believed had been bothering Hubbard for most of the season. In addition, their offensive line was decimated with injuries and opt-outs early on, which undoubtedly had an effect on Hubbard’s final year. Holistically, Hubbard still has a solid production profile (64% career dominator rating and 20.2 breakout age); however, the severe regression in 2020 likely cost him a selection in the first two rounds of the NFL draft.
40-yard dash (HS)
A fun fact about Hubbard is that he grew up primarily running track, winning several competitions throughout his early athletic career in Canada. To no surprise, his blazing speed translated to early success on the football field, as also evidenced in his college film. Unfortunately, there was no official recorded 40-yard dash from his high school days, which means we will have to wait for his April 1st pro-day to evaluate that number. I do expect him to clock somewhere around the 4.35 to 4.40 range, likely scoring higher than both Travis Etienne and Najee Harris. At Hubbard’s current weight of 208 lbs, if he clocked in within that range, that would give him a weight-adjusted speed score of 110 to 116.2. That would place him well above the 90th percentile among all RBs, on par with the likes of Ezekiel Elliott, Derrick Henry, and Latavius Murray.
What’s on Tape
If you followed along with my weekly Dynasty Report, you might already be familiar with my film-evaluation process. In short, I try to watch 4-to-6 games, analyzing every snap for that player in each of those games. Let’s dive into Chuba Hubbard’s tape!
Games Viewed: Kansas State (2019), TCU (2019), Texas A&M (2019), Tulsa (2019), Iowa State (2020), West Virginia (2020)
1. Chuba Hubbard has impressive top-end speed and acceleration
So, Chuba Hubbard is pretty fast. End of analysis.
But seriously, Chuba’s track career has clearly translated onto the football field as he frequently out-sprinted defenders throughout his time at Oklahoma State. His ability to switch gears and accelerate to full speed within a couple of seconds was truly remarkable, often resulting in long touchdown runs. What sets Hubbard apart from the rest of this class is his skillset to maintain full speed until the very end of the play. As a result, if given just a sliver of daylight, expect Hubbard to explode out of the backfield and leave everyone behind. Because of his breakaway speed, Hubbard recorded 49 plays of 10+ yards in 2019, right behind JK Dobbins and ahead of Etienne and Harris. And while straight-line speed does not always translate to success, it can still be a valuable trait in Hubbard’s arsenal as he transitions into the NFL.
2. Hubbard excelled at navigating tight spaces with his agility and shiftiness
Despite usually being the fastest player on the field, Hubbard did not always rely on his speed to succeed. The majority of the time, Hubbard leveraged his quick feet and shifty movements to find success, especially if the defense was stacking the front. He also displayed the ability to get “skinny,” weaving his way around defenders in a crowded line of scrimmage. Below is a perfect example of that trait. A play that initially started with only five defenders in the box quickly became a crowded front with two DBs rushing in. With all defenders focused on stopping Hubbard, we see some of the lateral agility and balance that make him dangerous as a rusher. Once he got past the crowded line, he had a clear lane for the touchdown.
3. Hubbard displayed great patience and vision, primarily in his 2019 tape. What happened in 2020?
One aspect of Hubbard’s game that I really enjoy is his patience as a runner. Despite his tremendous speed, you rarely see him accelerate immediately once the ball was handed to him. Oftentimes, he would hover in the backfield, wait for the blocking to develop, and then explode out of the line. Because of Hubbard’s propensity to wait for the optimal running lane, his one-cut ability and abrupt acceleration was often successful. However, his great vision was mostly evident in his 2019 tape. In his 2020 tape, I noticed Hubbard was a little more apprehensive and less decisive out the backfield. At times, he was patient to a fault, waiting too long instead of simply taking what was in front of him. I also observed less burst in his 2020 tape, which could have been due to his ankle injury that bothered him most of the season. Coupled with the injuries to the offensive line, his patient running style was less effective in 2020, leading to a less productive Junior season.
What’s Not on Tape
1. Hubbard needs to improve his awareness and technique in the blocking game
One aspect of Hubbard’s game that could be improved is his blocking. Surprisingly, for someone with quick feet, Hubbard struggled to stay in front of defenders. He did not excel at moving his hips and adjusting to the defender’s movements, at times letting them slip by with little resistance. I also believe he needs to improve at recognizing and adjusting to the pass rush. There were instances where he suffered from tunnel vision, resulting in missed opportunities to protect his QB. Below is one of those examples. In this specific play, Hubbard’s feet remained planted as both tackles struggled to hold off the edge rushers, nearly giving up a sack.
2. Chuba was not asked to be a pass catcher at Oklahoma State
In his final two years as a lead running back for the Cowboys, Hubbard would exceed two receptions in only three games. Does this mean that he will never be used as a receiver at the next level? Not necessarily. The Cowboys rarely targeted Hubbard in the six games that I reviewed, though he did corral a couple of receptions here and there. He was used more as a receiver in his freshman season, proving that he can be utilized on the short routes and as a safety valve for his QB. Hubbard is clearly not the most natural receiving RB in this class, though he should be more than capable if given the opportunity.
2021 Fantasy Outlook
Chuba Hubbard is one of the more intriguing running back prospects in this class. He had a 2019 season for the ages, giving us a glimpse of his upside if given the right opportunity. The chances of him repeating a 2,000 scrimmage yard season in 2020 was unlikely, though his significant dip in production does raise some flags. But as I mentioned above, injuries to both Hubbard and his offensive line likely contributed to the decline in efficiency.
Looking ahead, Hubbard currently projects as a two-down RB whose fantasy success will depend on his landing spot. Because draft capital will not be in his favor, he likely will not be an immediate contributor for dynasty managers. However, if he does land on a team such as the 49ers or the Chargers, two teams who could use another RB in their rotation, Hubbard could be more productive right out of the gate. As for his dynasty ADP, he is currently being drafted in the early 2nd round as the RB5/RB6. However, if I were drafting in that range, I would much rather go after a WR (Elijah Moore or Tylan Wallace), who present a higher upside. Regardless, keep an eye on Hubbard’s draft capital and landing spot as that could significantly change his dynasty outlook for 2021 and beyond.