Valuing Nick Chubb: Role Volatility, Coaching Scheme Makes Him Tough to Handicap
In the month of March, National Fantasy Football Championship (NFC) drafts have seen Nick Chubb (CLE) post an average draft position (ADP) of 10th overall and eighth amongst running backs (RBs). Last season, Chubb finished 10th amongst RBs in DraftKings (DK) fantasy points per game (17.5), but that number dropped to just 14.5 DK per game over the course of his final eight games. The fantasy community seems to be assuming the drop-off should be taken with a grain of salt but that seems foolish. This is not to discount the talent of Chub, who has graded as Pro Football Focus’ (PFF) top runner in back-to-back seasons, but context and opportunity is the key for an extremely volatile position.
Addition of Kareem Hunt And Impact On Nick Chubb
Just stating the fantasy point discrepancy with/without Kareem Hunt (CLE) in a slightly different manner, Chubb averaged 20.4 DK fantasy points per game in the eight games prior to Hunt joining the squad and then took a nearly six fantasy point per game hit once Hunt joined the team. Whereas Chubb garnered 12.1-percent of the target market share over the course of the first eight games, that number dropped to 7.5-percent in the second half, whereas Hunt saw exactly double the targets (44) of Chubb (22). Especially in point per reception (PPR) leagues, the lack of activity in the passing game is a huge red flag, despite the fact the offense should be improved with Austin Hooper (CLE). Additionally, Chubb averaged 1.25 rushing attempts less per game with Hunt and 14 less rushing yards per game in the second half with Hunt in the fold.
In the red zone department, Chubb took a similar hit, dropping from a 42.8-percent market share of red zone opportunities in the first half (72.4-percent rushing) to just a 36.4-percent market share in the second half (although he received 75.6-percent of the rushing opportunities in the red zone). It should be noted he was allotted 32 opportunities in the red zone in the second half and scored just one touchdown (TD) on those opportunities so there was a bit of bad luck involved in the scoring department. Regardless, the drop in targets and in red zone usage can be considered nothing other than a real concern.
Offensive Line Concerns For Nick Chubb
Only three teams graded worse in terms of their run blocking ability than the Browns last season, per PFF. The addition of Jack Conklin (CLE) this offseason should help solidify their ability to open up holes in the running game as he graded as one of the six best run-blocking tackles in 2019 (in 392 run-blocking raw opportunities). Even with the addition of Conklin, the Browns still feature two glaring holes on the offensive line at left tackle and right guard. There is a distinct possibility these needs are addressed in the draft but only five RBs averaged more time behind the line of scrimmage per play compared to Chubb. There is hope for improved play due to the addition of Conklin alone but expecting this unit to morph into an upper-echelon unit is asking a lot.
Role and Scheme For Nick Chubb
In an article this week on RotoExperts, a long look was taken at Kenyan Drake (ARI) and the stable role he now enjoys as the clear number one back in Arizona. Over the second half of the season last year, Drake was one of 14 RBs who played a higher snap percentage on their respective teams than Chubb (min. two games played over during that stretch). Yes, Chubb went from playing 74.6-percent of the snaps in games 1-8 (50 snaps per game) to playing just 63.4-percent of snaps in games 9-17 (42.3 snaps per game). If drafting him with the 10th overall pick, he basically needs to run pure in the TD department to approach anywhere near value if the snaps remain at just 63-percent. Otherwise, in PPR leagues, a player receiving under eight-percent of the target market share equates to just a 44-target pace, which can be made up for over a 288-carry pace, assuming Hunt is not awarded an even larger role this year. Of course, those numbers are based on the pace from last year, and the offense could lean more to the run in 2020…
The Browns scheme was one of the slowest in the league (58.3 plays per game) which is unlikely to change much under new head coach Kevin Stefanski. As the offensive coordinator of the Viking last year, the team ran an extremely run-heavy scheme, and the team averaged 0.6 plays more per game than the Browns. The main difference was the extreme skew to a run-heavy play-calling compared to the Browns, and most other teams (51-percent run play percentage), which could translate to a positive for Chubb if the team chooses to run a similar scheme. However, Stefanski is a QB coach by trade, having coached the position specifically in seven of his 13 years as a coach in the NFL. Essentially, there is not a large enough sample on Stefanski to draw any sure-thing conclusions yet but it is hard to look at the success of Dalvin Cook (MIN) last year and not get excited in regards to how a similar scheme could be run for Chubb.
Nick Chubb Final Takeaways
What does all of that mean? Here are my current top 15 PPR RBs taking all this information into account:
My Top 15 Running Backs (as of 3/26/2020 and based on teams’ current RB depth)
- Christian McCaffery
- Saquon Barkley
- Dalvin Cook
- Austin Ekeler
- Ezekiel Elliott
- Alvin Kamara
- Aaron Jones
- Kenyan Drake
- Derrick Henry
- Joe Mixon
- Josh Jacobs
- Nick Chubb
- Miles Sanders
- Leonard Fournette
- Devin Singletary