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Avoid the Red Flag Runners and Buy the Ascending Star: Why You Should Consider Nick Chubb as Early as 1.05

Fantasy football is about clarity. While we can never be clear about what will happen across a 16-game NFL season, there are some things we can be clear about. We want the guys we draft to have clear roles on their teams. We want them to have clear paths to success. In 2019, there’s a tier of top running backs that are obvious picks. Saquon Barkley, Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, and Ezekiel Elliott have been the first four selections off of the board in most drafts.1 Throw in David Johnson for good measure as excitement about the air raid grows.

The trade of Duke Johnson signals a clear commitment to Nick Chubb in Cleveland. His outlook pre-trade placed him as a low-end RB1 for many analysts. His outlook post-trade vaults him into that top tier for me. He’s not without his flaws, but the positives outweigh the negatives by a large margin.

Rookie Year

When the Browns moved Carlos Hyde mid-season last year, it was clear that Chubb would carry the load. Up until that point, Chubb was used – shall we say – sparingly? He was averaging just over 6 more PPR Points than I was while sitting on my couch watching. 

Through the first six games, he earned a total of 17 opportunities. With Hyde out of the picture, he averaged over 20 opportunities the rest of the way. During that stretch, he was on the field for over 60% of the Browns’ snaps which, per our usage app, would be a top-10 rate over a full season. 

Historical Comps

Chubb didn’t put together a 16-game sample to hang our hats on. But Freddie Kitchens trusted Chubb to carry the load down the stretch. If we search for backs with a similar rookie finish, the results are impressive.

There are 589 rookie running backs in the Screener database. Of that group, just 18 players have hit the same thresholds as Chubb managed from Weeks 8 to 17. The list of comps speaks for itself. The biggest knock on him – and it’s a big one – is the lack of receiving work. There are guys on the list that never contributed much in the passing game but still were quite useful for fantasy.

Rookie RB Per Game Numbers – Week 8-17 (2000-2018)

 

Projecting Chubb in 2019

Using the Projection Machine, I wanted to play around with Chubb’s projection to see what we should be expecting for 2019. If we believe that the Browns are going to be an improved team this year, there will be plenty of opportunities for Chubb to close out games. Yes, Kareem Hunt is slated to come back after he serves his suspension, but even if he ends up with a 20% market share for the season, there are still plenty of carries to be had. 

The Browns hired Todd Monken as offensive coordinator in the offseason. We have three years of Monken’s offenses to look at as OC. In the last two years, Monken’s Buccaneers went 5-11. They were above league average in plays but ran the ball less than 40% of the time in each of those years. In 2016, though, the Bucs were 9-7 and ran the ball at a 44% clip. 

Todd Monken – History as Offensive Coordinator

Based on that, and the fact that Freddie Kitchens still has plenty of input on the offense, we should look at the Browns as running an above-average number of plays and running about a 55 – 45 pass/run split. 

Dating back to his time at Georgia, Chubb’s never shown much in the passing game. We’ve even suggested in the past week that you should avoid him at his price. Chubb seems like a special case, though. Looking back to his 10-game stretch, he saw a 9% market share of targets. If we give that share to him in 2019, I’m projecting 52 targets for him (3.25 per game). With that target share and just under 60% of the rushing share, I have Chubb at RB5 in my projections (pending Elliott’s return). 

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

  1. Elliott is anything but clear at the moment and is completely off of my board until the contract situation is resolved.  (back)

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