While most people watch the NFL Draft to see who their favorite teams select, fantasy football players tune in to see where incoming rookies will land. As one of the more interesting RB prospects this year, what are the draft projections for Oklahoma State’s Chuba Hubbard, and which team would make the best landing spot with fantasy football at the forefront?
Chuba Hubbard saw his fantasy value fluctuate drastically in college
If we held this conversation last season, Hubbard would have been considered a fantastic fantasy football prospect. But then this thing called 2020 happened and wrecked his value along with basically everything else.
As a redshirt sophomore, Hubbard played in 13 games, rushing 328 times for a nation-leading 2,094 yards and scored 21 touchdowns. He also added 23 receptions for 198 yards. Hubbard was a unanimous All-American, the Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, a finalist for the Walter Camp Player of the Year Award, and one of three national finalists for the Doak Walker Award. In fact, he rushed for over 100 yards in every contest except in their Week 2 blowout over McNeese State, where he saw only 8 carries.
Hubbard struggled to replace the success in 2020
Hindsight is 20/20. When Hubbard announced he was returning to college, I am sure he never saw things going the way they did. Unfortunately, his season was off to a rocky start before it ever began.
First, there was the Mike Gundy shirt incident which led to Hubbard threatening to boycott the season. While Gundy did issue an apology, it’s hard to say if that relationship was truly mended. Then, the health crisis halted the whole spring season and forced conferences to alter schedules.
By the time the season ended, Hubbard had played in seven games and had less than a third of the totals from the year before. He rushed 133 times for 625 yards and scored 5 touchdowns. Hubbard also caught 8 passes for 52 yards and a score. What can’t be overlooked is the situation that surrounded Hubbard. Oklahoma State played 13 different offensive line combinations last year thanks to injuries and opt-outs. They had no passing attack, with both Spencer Sanders and Tylan Wallace missing games as well.
The Cowboys were 53rd in the nation in passing yards per game, 45th in rushing yards, and 52nd in scoring. To put that in perspective, Oklahoma State hasn’t ranked outside of the top 25 in yards per game since 2014.
Top five landing spots for Hubbard based on draft projections
Hubbard is a one-cut rusher with Olympic-level speed. Should he go to a team suited for his rushing style, Hubbard could rise in post-draft fantasy rankings.
San Francisco 49ers
For fantasy managers looking for the A1 landing spot, San Francisco should be at the top of your list. Hubbard is not going to work in a power scheme. Where his skills are best suited is in a wide-zone rushing scheme that utilizes quick RBs who can make cone cuts and get north — that’s Hubbard’s game.
There are also vacant carries on the offense following the departure of Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon. Combined, the 49ers enter 2021 with 28.3% of their carries (124) unaccounted for from the year prior, along with 21.7% of the carries inside the five-yard line.
The 49ers are known for riding the hot hand. Even as a rookie, Hubbard could see usage. However, it is the next season that should have you excited. Even with the addition of Wayne Gallman, the 49ers do not have an RB under contract after 2021. Where some look for instant fantasy results, play the long game if this is Hubbard’s landing spot.
New York Jets
If we look at the Shanahan-style offense, we must look at the team hoping to emulate the 49ers in the New York Jets. Robert Saleh and Mike LaFleur will run the same offense, and currently, the Jets lack any notable running attack. Zach Wilson seems to be the locked-in No. 2 overall pick, and if you want to help a rookie QB succeed, they need a rushing game.
Currently on the Jets’ depth chart are the aforementioned Coleman, La’Mical Perine, Josh Adams, and Ty Johnson. None of those names should either inspire the coaching staff or stand in the way of Hubbard should he land in New York.
There is no getting around how poor the Jets’ offense has been in recent years. Hopefully, moving on from Adam Gase is what this team needed. Hubbard can be a lead back, and for once, fantasy managers might actively target a Jet on draft day.
Los Angeles Chargers
What about Austin Ekeler? No, I have not forgotten about him, and by no means am I saying the Chargers have, either. There are only a select few teams who have a legitimate need. Beyond those, we have to look for non-competing skill sets.
Ekeler is a phenomenal pass catcher, something Hubbard never displayed while in Stillwater — he exceeded 2 receptions in a game only three times. Hubbard’s calling card is speed, whether it is getting to the corner or at the second level.
The Chargers are loaded with talent and exited free agency as one of the most improved teams. With a retooled offensive line that should open up holes routinely, Hubbard could be a 10-12 touch per game player on a productive offense with a chance to make a house call on any play.
It’s well-known the Steelers need a difference-maker at RB. The Steelers finished dead last in the NFL in rushing at 84.4 yards per game, and their 12 rushing touchdowns were good for 28th in the NFL. However, that is not to say there weren’t bright spots at times.
From Weeks 1 through 6, James Conner was a featured back. He had 75 carries (15 per game) and averaged 18 total touches per game for 90 yards. Over this stretch, he was the RB17 with 16.2 ppg. It was the Steelers altogether abandoning the running game that ruined his season more than anything. With Conner now in Arizona, the Steelers cannot feel comfortable about running out Benny Snell in Week 1. He is a plodder at best, and when matched with Hubbard, could not have more different skill sets.
The lone downside of this landing spot for fantasy is on passing plays — Hubbard will be on the bench. To put it bluntly, he is a liability in pass protection. With Ben Roethlisberger essentially a statue in the pocket, Snell would be the likely option in the protection.
While the focus has been on who will be at QB, I feel like people have overlooked that the Broncos are a solid team, especially in the trenches. They were decimated by injuries last season, but when healthy, Garett Bolles, Dalton Risner, Graham Glasgow, and Lloyd Cushenberry make up arguably the most underrated offensive line in football.
There is now an opening in the backfield following the release of Phillip Lindsay. As with other teams mentioned, the Broncos are an offense that will run plenty of zone-blocking concepts. Melvin Gordon is also entering the final year of his two-year deal with the team. I have already stated that Gordon will likely be my highest rostered RB in 2021. Throwing Hubbard into the mix would complete the backfield and give us two viable fantasy assets.
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