Ahead of Week 4, Carolina Panthers RB Chuba Hubbard was the No. 1 waiver wire priority in fantasy football, and understandably so. Christian McCaffrey suffered a hamstring injury in Week 3, putting Hubbard as the lead back in place of fantasy’s RB1. Hubbard underwhelmed, however, and McCaffrey practiced ahead of Week 5’s matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles. Is Hubbard worth starting in your lineups this week?
Update: Christian McCaffrey is inactive for the Panthers Week 5 matchup against the Eagles. Chuba Hubbard is expected to be the starting RB for the Panthers this week.
Should you start Chuba Hubbard in Week 5?
In short, the answer is yes. After practicing on a limited basis this week, there was hope that McCaffrey would suit up on Sunday against the Eagles. However, the Panthers have listed McCaffrey as doubtful for this week’s game, giving Hubbard another shot for a breakout performance.
With McCaffrey missing most of the 2020 season, fantasy managers naturally gravitated to his then-backup, Mike Davis. Davis filled in admirably for the Panthers — and fantasy managers for that matter. He finished the year as the RB15 in half-PPR leagues, with 11.8 fantasy points on average. If we take out his Week 17 performance, Davis was a fantasy RB1 on the year.
So when McCaffrey went down again earlier this season, speculation soon began as to whether Hubbard could become a league-winner or not. Hubbard became the obvious top waiver wire add in Week 4. Several fantasy managers used their top priority and/or spent most of their FAAB budget to acquire Hubbard off waivers.
Week 5 is the last opportunity to get an ROI from Hubbard
Admittedly, I was unsuccessful in acquiring Hubbard in any of my waiver claims. But in truth, it’s because I wasn’t willing to spend up in order to get him.
The Panthers’ decision to not put McCaffrey on IR was the first sign that this is a short-term injury for him. Thus, spending more than 50% of my FAAB that early in the season for 1-2 weeks of production didn’t seem worth the return on investment.
In Week 4, fantasy managers didn’t get the ROI on Hubbard they were expecting. Hubbard rushed 13 times against the Cowboys for 57 yards. He added 2 receptions for 14 yards, finishing the week tied as the RB36 with 8.1 fantasy points. If only one of QB Sam Darnold’s 2 rushing touchdowns could’ve gone to Hubbard instead — it would’ve salvaged his day.
Nevertheless, Hubbard will have another opportunity in Week 5 against an uninspiring Eagles defense. The matchup is good, but with McCaffrey potentially returning in Week 6, it’s possibly the last opportunity for Hubbard to have any fantasy value in 2021.
Hubbard is worth starting in fantasy despite underwhelming Week 4 performance
As mentioned, if either of Darnold’s rushing touchdowns last week goes to Hubbard instead, then this article has a different perspective. Against the Eagles, I’d project he finds the end zone at some point.
The Eagles’ defense has had an early Jekyll and Hyde look to them. After allowing just 17 points total in the first two weeks, Philadelphia has given up a total of 83 points in the last two games. In fairness, they’ve been against the Cowboys and Chiefs (two of the most high-powered offenses in the NFL). Still, when an NFL team gives up 40+ points in back-to-back games, it’s concerning.
While the Panthers may not put up a 40 burger, I’m confident they’ll put up a considerable amount of points nonetheless. And I’m sure Hubbard will reap some of those benefits for a solid fantasy performance this time around.
Unfortunately, his fantasy value will likely decline soon after Sunday. McCaffrey practicing this week, albeit limited, indicates he’s set to return soon. And I’d bet money he’ll be back in Week 6.
If you have McCaffrey, you’re holding onto Hubbard regardless. Nevertheless, if Hubbard has a breakout performance against the Eagles, put him on the trade block first before cutting him. The McCaffrey owner may throw you a significant offer, or someone simply buys into the short-term hype.