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The 2018 RB Elite 8: (4) Nick Chubb vs (5) Sony Michel

The RotoViz Running Back Prospect Sweet 16 Tournament matches the top incoming prospects in a head-to-head March Madness style format. Various RotoViz writers break down each matchup with the winner moving on to the next round.


Let’s get into today’s matchup!

(4) Nick Chubb vs (5) Sony Michel

Anthony Amico – Nick Chubb

This one is pretty clear to me. Chubb and Michel have similar numbers in terms of adjusted all-purpose YPG (91.7 to 94.5) and NFL Draft Scout ranking (No. 5 and No. 6). However, Chubb broke out at 19 years old, best in the class. Michel, meanwhile, has never broken out, and finished his college career at 22.9 years of age. Considering how valuable breakout age is, I’m not sure how anyone could take Michel over Chubb right now.1

Blair Andrews – Nick Chubb

Chubb had one of the best freshman RB seasons in recent memory. The 98th-percentile SPARQ athleticism he showed at the combine put to bed any worries that his injury has slowed him down. I like Michel, but considering how good Chubb was at a young age along with the fact that he’s both bigger and a better athlete, this one really isn’t that close.

Jordan Hoover – Nick Chubb

Chubb posted an 88th percentile speed score and 91st percentile burst score to go along with a first-year Workhorse Score of 47.74, well above the desired historical threshold of 25. Michel is slower, older, and failed to produce at a young age (9.84 first-year WH). Given that Chubb and Michel are so similar in cost (pick 3 and 4 according to DLF ADP), this choice is an easy one.

Cort Smith – Nick Chubb

The only thing holding Chubb back from being a slam-dunk prospect are questions about his ability to ever bounce back from that brutal injury in his sophomore season. His performance at the combine should work to put those fears to rest.

Matt Wispe – Nick Chubb

Neither Michel or Chubb were heavily used in the receiving game, but Chubb was used as more of a workhorse back in college and broke out immediately. Michel only had one season over 200 carries and his receiving numbers dipped significantly compared to his best years. Chubb advances.

Scott Smith – Nick Chubb

For Chubb, few people argue his ability after seeing him run as a freshman. With his performance at the combine, Chubb managed to put to rest any doubt as to his recovery. In short, he is back. I would remind people that Willis McGahee went on to have a successful NFL career after what might have been a more gruesome injury. For Michel, there will not be much if any discount in this matchup. Some pundits feel like Michel is a better fit for today’s NFL game. While game film pointed to Michel being the more dynamic athlete, that just didn’t come to fruition during combine testing. With both of these RBs being fine prospects, I think its telling that the coaches at Georgia, who know these two players better than anyone on this panel, continually chose Chubb over Michel from the moment they stepped on campus. I will go the same route.

Ryan Bobbitt – Nick Chubb

Chubb has breakout age and athleticism on his side. He also posted a crazy freshman season. Both are going in the top five of early rookie mocks and without a discount, I’m taking Chubb.

Hasan Rahim – Nick Chubb

Chubb maintains the edge over Michel in this matchup given his superior career workhorse score. Note that Michel’s 2015 workhorse score is superior to any of Chubb’s single-season workhorse scores, which raises a small red flag regarding Chubb’s three-down workhorse potential. However, given their similar rookie draft ADPs, I’m willing to give Chubb the nod here.

Dave Caban – Nick Chubb

Chubb is an athletic freak with a mixture of speed, burst, size and strength that few can match. He consistently beat out other talented backs for work, produced for the entirety of his career, and accumulated superb production. He was better than Michel in college and is a stronger back overall. While Michel is likely that better receiver, it should be noted that Chubb caught 18 balls as freshman and can catch passes when team needs dictate. In fact, he caught over 75 percent of targets while at Georgia and scored three times through the air.

Shawn Siegele – Sony Michel

I agree with almost all of the pro-Chubb arguments, and Michel’s score in the RB Prospect Lab is a gigantic red flag. Since Chubb is going to advance easily, I’ll offer a couple of nagging concerns. Chubb may have impressed at the combine, but that doesn’t necessarily mean his overall or on-field athleticism is back to the levels of his a freshman campaign that might have placed him next to Barkley as a prospect.2 On the field, Michel was much more explosive in 2018, as was Georgia freshman D’Andre Swift. Chubb has also only caught 13 passes in the last three years and is one of the more likely stars from this loaded class to end up as part of an NFL committee where he loses valuable receiving touches.

John Lapinski – Nick Chubb

Chubb checks every box other than receiving, and even there he has shown enough to believe it could be an area of strength for him. If the two were further apart in price, I think this would be a closer matchup. As it stands, they’ll likely go within a pick or two of each other, and in some drafts Michel may even go first. Chubb makes it through to the next round.

Final Result

The only thing keeping this from being a sweep was Siegele’s apparent act of mercy in talking about Michel. I think that Smith summed it up best when mentioning that the Georgia staff preferred Chubb over Michel at every possible juncture. Chubb is younger, broke out at the youngest age in the class, and showcased elite athleticism as the combine. He will move on to face Saquon Barkley in the Final Four, a battle of the Titans that could have been predicted years ago.

  1. I’m sure someone will, but I want to be sold!  (back)
  2. Although it’s a very good sign in this regard, we’ve seen other athletic marvels struggle in the NFL. Scouts certainly wanted to see a return of the unicorn-like functional athleticism, and that never quite happened.  (back)

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