The Nick Chubb Dilemma
Nick Chubb is the quintessential example of someone who is a much better football player than he is a fantasy football player. Since being taken by the Browns with the first pick in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft, Chubb has been one of the best running backs in the NFL. Chubb has been a perennial first-round fantasy pick but a combination of injuries and splitting snaps, last year’s finish as RB6 in PPR was the highest of his career.
Kareem Hunt‘s Departure
Since Kareem Hunt joined the Cleveland Browns in 2019, Chubb has been a complete non-factor in the passing game. He also lost a considerable amount of goal-line looks to Hunt. Well, Kareem Hunt left in free agency, as did third-stringer D’Ernest Johnson. The Browns did not do much of anything to replace them. Former day 3 Jerome Ford and Demetric Felton are expected to back up Chubb this year. The two have minimal NFL experience, and Ford has been injured. Given all the potential snaps and touches he could be getting in Hunt’s absence, this bodes exceptionally well for Chubb. Or so it may seem.
Addition of Deshaun Watson
While Hunt may be gone, disgraced former superstar QB Deshaun Watson will have his first season under center for the Browns. Watson missed the first 11 games last year due to suspension and the 2021 season. When Watson returned in week 13, though, fantasy output changed drastically for Chubb and Hunt.
Watson is not only a viable runner; his speed is an asset. He is also a significant upgrade over Jacoby Brissett and Baker Mayfield in the passing department. These two things make it not as necessary to rely so heavily on the running backs as the Browns have in recent years.
Chubb’s Production With and Without Watson
Chubb put up 281.4 PPR points last year, reaching 16.5 points per game. Before Watson returned in week 13, Chubb was having his best season concerning fantasy football. He was averaging a whopping 18.9 points per game throughout a full 17 games that would have given him 321.81 points, good for RB3 behind only Christian McCaffrey and Austin Ekeler. Chubb would have narrowly surpassed Josh Jacobs for RB1 in standard scoring formats.
Upon Watson’s arrival, Chubb’s fantasy production took a noticeable dip. He scored 73.2 points in PPR over the final 6 games of the season with Deshaun Watson. That is 12.2 points per game, over 6.5 less than he did in the first 12 weeks. That would have come out to a finish of RB17 throughout an entire season. That finish would have been behind Miles Sanders, Jamaal Williams, and Alvin Kamara, who are currently not drafted in most drafts’ first three rounds.
Hunt’s Production With and Without Watson
Now let’s consider all of Hunt’s touches that are now up for grabs. Given the lack of viable options behind him, it can be understandably assumed that Chubb would be the front-runner to inherit most of those touches, and his usage in camp reflects that. Just how much production is that, though? The answer is, unfortunately, not much. Like Chubb, Hunt saw a dip in production with Watson. His dropoff is even more severe.
Before the arrival of Watson, Hunt was averaging 8.96 points per game. He would have finished as RB 33 at that pace, which is nothing to scoff at for a number 2 back. Hunt fell off a cliff in week 13, though see his per-game average drop nearly in half to 4.7 points per game. He would have finished at a highly insignificant RB 57 at that pace. This is behind Nyheim Hines, primarily used as a kick returner, and Melvin Gordon, released halfway through the season.
Conclusion: Fade Chubb at his Current ADP
So there are fewer potential points up for grabs than we may have thought with Hunt’s departure. Between Chubb, Watson, and the supporting cast vying for touches, that measly 4.7 points per game gets even smaller.
Chubb currently has an adp at both Fantasy Pros and Fantasy Football Calculator. He is going before Derrick Henry and Tony Pollard, who I would much rather have at the tail end of the first round/early second round. This is also a deep pool of running backs this year. There are a few elite receiving threats going after Chubb in PPR drafts. I think passing on Davante Adams, Amon-Ra St. Brown, or Garrett Wilson to draft Chubb would not be wise. The output with Watson left too much to be desired last year.