Draft Nick Chubb in Fantasy Football and Stop Worrying About Kareem Hunt

If you're like me, your first thought when the Cleveland Browns tendered running back Kareem Hunt was, "Ah, well, there goes Nick Chubb's upside."

For reasons we'll talk about below, that is a perfectly valid thought process. Though, as I'll outline in this piece, there's plenty of evidence to suggest that the opposite might be true.

In this piece, we'll go in-depth on Chubb's 2020 outlook with Hunt in the mix. Let's dive in.

Current ADP

Over at BestBall10s, Chubb's current average draft position (ADP) since the start of July is 11.85, eighth at the position.

Derrick Henry (7.50), Joe Mixon (8.06), Miles Sanders (11.80), Kenyan Drake (12.62), Josh Jacobs (14.93), and Aaron Jones (15.01) are all coming off the board within five picks of Chubb.

Nick Chubb's 2019 Production

With Hunt serving an eight-game suspension, Chubb was the RB4 in terms of fantasy points per game in half-PPR (point per reception) leagues. However, once Hunt returned in Week 10, things weren't quite as bloomy for the 24-year-old. Here's a look at his per-game splits without and with Hunt in the fold.

Nick Chubb Weeks 1-9 Nick Chubb Weeks 10-17
Attempts 19.3 18.0
Rush Yards 100.4 86.4
Yards per Carry 5.2 4.8
Targets 4.0 2.1
Receptions 3.1 1.4
Receiving Yards 20.1 14.6
Yards per Reception 6.4 10.6
Total Touchdowns 0.8 0.3
Half-PPR Points 17.7 12.6
Snap Rate 74.5% 63.9%

These splits are why you can get Chubb in the back-half of round one in your fantasy drafts, as opposed to him being a top-five pick. While he ranked as the RB4 in points per game without Hunt, he dropped to RB21 in scoring average with Hunt.

It's pretty easy to pinpoint why Chubb's production dropped. Once Hunt returned, Chubb saw 1.3 fewer carries, 1.9 fewer targets, and a 10.6% drop in snap rate. That all led to 19.5 less total yards, 1.7 fewer receptions, and a drop of a half a touchdown per game.

After scoring double-digit fantasy points in every single game the first half, including five performances of 14.3-plus, Chubb failed to reach double-digits in four of eight second-half contests, with only two performances of 14 or more.

When I said the thought process of a limited upside was valid, I meant it.

2020 Outlook

For much of the offseason, I've been contemplating putting together a piece about why Chubb is being "overdrafted" due to the splits we just covered. And yet, that's not what this article is.

The truth is, we might be getting to the point where we're too low on Chubb. Allow me to explain.

Before accounting for any other factors, such as coaching or roster changes, we need to make note of the fact that Chubb should have scored more in 2019. And I'm not necessarily just talking about fantasy scoring -- he should have scored more in real life.

One might think that Chubb's drop in touchdowns in the second half of the season was due to Hunt being in the mix, but that's simply not the case. Here's a look at Chubb's red zone splits before and after Hunt returned.

Nick Chubb Weeks 1-9 Nick Chubb Weeks 10-17
Carries 25 26
Yards 70 19
Touchdowns 5 1
Rushing NEP per carry -0.07 -0.63
Rushing Success Rate 32.00% 15.38%
Market Share 33.3% 32.9%

Chubb's drop in scoring had nothing to do with a decrease in usage. In fact, his usage was nearly identical (33.3% of the team's red zone touches to 32.9%). The root cause of the decrease was a rather sizable dip in efficiency -- and that's an understatement.

Inside the 20, Chubb's Rushing Net Expected Points (NEP) per carry dropped from -0.07 in the first half to -0.63 in the second half. His Rushing Success Rate (i.e., the percentage of carries that lead to positive NEP for a team’s offense) fell from 32.0% to 15.4%. His yards per carry dropped by 2.1. Not great, Bob!

numberFire's editor-in-chief, JJ Zachariason, has a weighted metric for how many touchdowns a player should have scored versus how many he did score. Based on that metric, Chubb should have had 2.5 more touchdowns last year. According to JJ, only four backs fared worse.

Given that Chubb's 2018 red zone stats closely resembled what he posted in the first half of 2019, I'd say the second half of 2019 was an outlier.

The Kevin Stefanski Effect

When the Browns hired Kevin Stefanski to be their next head coach, it should have mitigated most (if not all) concerns we had about Chubb. Here's why.

13 Games Prior to
Stefanski Becoming OC
19 Games After
Stefanski Became OC
P/R Ratio2.061.08
Rushes per Game20.829.02
Rush Yards per Game83.6129.5
Rush Touchdowns per Game0.461.21
Red Zone P/R Ratio2.060.67

That table is a snapshot of the Minnesota Vikings' last two seasons, broken down by the 13 games prior to Stefanski being named offensive coordinator, versus the 19 games after he got the position.

"Night and day" doesn't even begin to describe the difference. It's as if Minnesota's running game before he took over was cake, and after he took over, it became an actual NFL ground game. Going from a 2.06 pass-to-run ratio to 1.08 is just astounding.

Vikings' star running back Dalvin Cook was the primary beneficiary, particularly in the red zone. In the 13 games prior to Stefanski taking over, Cook garnered 10 carries inside the 20, out of Minnesota 98 red zone plays (10.2%) -- he failed to score a single time. In the 19 games following, Cook got the rock on 52 of their 184 red zone plays (28.3%), scoring 13 times.

Are the Browns committed to adopting Stefanski's run-first approach? You tell me.

Last year, the Browns' bookend tackles were Greg Robinson and Chris Hubbard. According to Pro Football Focus, the two ranked 38th and 79th among tackles in run blocking, respectively. Cleveland elected for not bring back Robinson and asked Hubbard to take a substantial pay cut.

To replace those guys, Cleveland went out and signed former Tennessee Titans right tackle Jack Conklin to the third-largest contract at the position. Conklin was PFF's 32nd-ranked pass-blocker at tackle, though he ranked 6th in run-blocking. Dishing out that much dough on a guy who's a far superior run-blocker than pass-protector should clue you in into the direction the team wants to take.

Cleveland also used the 10th overall pick in this year's draft to select Jedrick Wills Jr., a player who should excel in Stefanski's zone-blocking scheme.

All in all, that is a non-insignificant amount of resources invested in guys who will greatly improve the Browns' ground game.


numberFire's models project Chubb to total 1,488.6 yards, 27.2 receptions, and 11.7 touchdowns. That would have amounted to an RB8 finish.

That projection is based on a 268.2-carry forecast. If he plays 16 games, I believe Chubb can surpass that with ease. Remember, Dalvin Cook was on pace for 359 touches before he got hurt in Week 15.

I'd feel quite comfortable taking Chubb as high as Henry's current ADP of 7.50, especially in any formats that reward points for receptions.