One Rookie RB Is Starting to Look Like the 2019 Nick Chubb, And It’s Not Who You Might Think
Image Credit: Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Nick Chubb.

Last season, Nick Chubb’s ADP fell consistently throughout draft season as it became clear that Carlos Hyde was going to begin the season as the starter. Chubb wasn’t even the second Cleveland running back selected, as drafters assumed the Browns would continue to deploy their ace receiving back, Duke Johnson.

Chubb appeared to get lucky. Cleveland eventually traded Hyde, and Chubb performed well enough to earn late second-round status from drafters in 2019. But what if it was more than luck? Should we be drafting rookie RBs who fall into the middle rounds? For that matter, should we be drafting rookie RBs at all?

Rookie RBs In Redraft

Dave Caban recently looked at the impact of rookies in redraft, and he found that rookie RBs, while more viable than WRs, still don’t hit as often as you might like. Only 29 rookie RBs have scored 160 or more points1 since 2008, and 17 of those backs had been selected in the first two rounds of the reality draft that summer.

On the other hand, perhaps rookies are most valuable when you need it the most. If rookies routinely emerge in the fantasy playoffs, they’ll carry teams to titles. If rookies score in late-season bunches, then they’ll be more valuable than players with similar full-season point totals. Using the RotoViz Screener and pulling up all rookie seasons since 2000, we can quickly see that 14 RBs have scored 100 or more points in Weeks 12 through 17. Fourteen of those backs scored more points during those final six weeks than they had over the previous 10. This encouraging trend fits with Brian Malone’s argument that rookie RBs are key in the fantasy playoffs.

Chubb was not one of those 100-point backs, but he posted an impressive 90 points over the final six weeks. The Browns rookie finished the season with an 11.6% win rate, far better than Hyde’s 6.3%. For Zero RB owners, Chubb was just what the doctor ordered.

Of course, it’s not just how many points a rookie scores but how much those points cost. In More Proof That Rookie Are the Key to Fantasy Success, Blair Andrews provides the essential insight.

With that in mind, he recommended Kerryon Johnson and Nyheim Hines. Johnson eventually finished with 14 PPG, while Hines’ 63 receptions pulled him up to RB28. Both backs earned win rates above 9.0%. Unfortunately, each back climbed out of the target range during August draft season.

That’s where Chubb came in. Blair’s draft-season update provided the following alert.

Nick Chubb was being drafted in the seventh round at the end of July. Now, at the end of August, his ADP is solidly in the ninth round. Carlos Hyde has put together an impressive preseason, and his ADP rise represents the equal and opposite reaction to Chubb’s fall.

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Although three-way competitions are not usually the optimal situations when looking for Zero RB candidates, the recent discount makes Chubb an attractive target.

The 2019 Chubb?

The FFPC Dashboard gives us the ADP for the first four RBs selected in the 2019 draft, plus Justice Hill.

Miles Sanders began June in the same area as Darrell Henderson, a few picks below David Montgomery. Since that time, a hamstring injury has kept him from making inroads against Jordan Howard, and the Philly Voice suggested he needed to work on his ball security, pass protection, and receiving ability. That prompted John Solis to quip that if Sanders would just get better at absolutely everything, he might see the field once Darren Sproles retires. (John was still smarting from his early Sanders selection in SFB the day before.)

We can see the impact of Sanders’ offseason struggles in the contrast between his ADP and that of Howard.

Over the last 10 days, Sanders selections outside the top-100 picks have spiked. And as Sanders falls out of the first 100 picks, he lands right in our target window.

Don’t Overreact – Sanders Has League-Winning Upside

In a weak RB class, Sanders distanced the rest of the top prospects in the RB Prospect Lab. He’s not an absolute freak, but the Penn State product sports a well-rounded athletic profile at 211 pounds.

Easily the most athletic of the 2019 three-down backs, Sanders wasn’t just a workout warrior, he admirably filled the Nittany Lions’ Saquon Barkley-sized void in 2018. His top comp according to the Box Score Scout just happens to be one of the rookie RBs we were recommending at this time last year.

This production didn’t come out of nowhere. Our devy gurus, Jordan Hoover and Travis May, both pointed to Sanders’ status as an uber-prospect out of high school in detailing his victories in the first and second rounds of our RB tournament.

Sanders’ recent travails haven’t helped his redraft ADP, but there’s no new information to be worried about. As a result, he’s currently the No. 3 rookie and No. 2 RB in our dynasty rankings.

The Fit In Philadelphia

Philadelphia has been solidly middle of the pack in team RB points since Doug Pederson arrived in 2016. Any improvement in what should be an emerging offense and suddenly you’re looking at a very large pie.

Pederson’s mentor, Andy Reid, has consistently fielded offenses with ridiculous RB upside, but the Eagles simply haven’t had a back with enough dynamism during Pederson’s tenure. The Eagles may choose to follow more of a Saints model in terms of the workload split, but Sanders would remain incredibly intriguing as an Alvin Kamara/Damien Williams hybrid. Despite reports by some following the team, the Eagles have high hopes for Sanders in the passing game.

If you’re a Sanders fan, you almost have to hope he can fly under the radar for another month. His upside in the rookie RB target window would make him a mouthwatering Zero RB candidate.

Image Credit: Frank Jansky/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Nick Chubb.

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  1. Roughly the back end of the RB2 tier  (back)

Shawn Siegele

Author of the original Zero RB article and 2013 NFFC Primetime Grand Champion. 11-time main event league winner. 2015, 2017, 2018 titles in MFL10 of Death.
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