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Nick Chubb
AP
NFL Player Profile

Can both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt ball out?

by Ian Hartitz
Updated On: June 17, 2020, 1:03 am ET

We’re in the thick of the NFL offseason and it’s officially time to start fantasy football prep. I’ll be answering the biggest questions heading into the 2020 season. Click here to read the series of questions answered so far.

The root of the hype behind the 2019 Browns mostly involved the addition of Odell Beckham and expected excellence from 2018 No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield. Ultimately, regression from Mayfield, combined with the team's porous offensive line and injury/suspension-riddled defense, resulted in a disappointing 6-10 campaign.

One of the lone season-long bright spots from last season's Cleveland offense was the backfield. Both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt showed off why they're considered two of the league's best all-around RBs. The former racked up 1,772 total yards and eight scores in 16 games, while the latter posted 43-179-2 rushing and 37-285-1 receiving lines during the second half of the season upon returning from suspension.

What follows is a breakdown on just how good Chubb and Hunt are as well as a look at what we should expect from the duo in 2020.

Chubb is emerging as the league's premiere rusher

Hue Jackson inexplicably played Chubb behind Carlos Hyde for the first six games of 2018, otherwise the 2018 second-round pick's 192-996-8 rushing and 20-149-2 receiving lines as a rookie could've been so much bigger.

Chubb's 298-1,494-8 performance on the ground in 2019 sealed the deal on the reality that he's one of the game's most-efficient rushers. Lamar Jackson (5.9 yards per carry) is the only player to average more yards per rush than Chubb (5.1) among 26 high-volume rushers with at least 300 combined carries over the past two seasons.

What has made this efficiency all the more impressive has been the way Chubb has gone about picking up yards. Only Derrick Henry has provided a more consistent combination of tackle-breaking goodness and big-play ability:

  • 2018 yards after contact per attempt: 4.47 (No. 1 among qualified RBs)
  • 2019 yards after contact per attempt: 3.77 (No. 3)
  • 2018 runs of 15-plus yards: 15 (tied for No. 7)
  • 2019 runs of 15-plus yards: 20 (No. 1)

Chubb has proven to be more than capable of handling some pass-game duties, but the presence of Duke Johnson and Hunt have largely resulted in the Browns not tapping into that part of his game.

Chubb

It's unlikely Chubb gets a full-time three-down role in 2020 as long as Hunt remains healthy and out of trouble. Still, he'll likely flirt with 250-300 touches in this scenario, something that is awful scary for a player of his caliber.

There's little doubt that Chubb needs to be considered among the league's very best pure runners. Of course, this is an honor that his teammate should likely be considered for as well.

Nobody breaks tackles more consistently than Hunt

The Chiefs drafted Hunt with the No. 86 overall pick of the 2017 draft. All he did as a rookie was lead the league in rushing and rack up 11 total scores. 2018 was proving to be just as fruitful, as Hunt posted 181-824-7 rushing and 26-378-7 receiving lines in just 11 games of action. Then he was released after a video surfaced of him shoving a woman in a Cleveland hotel.

The NFL suspended Hunt eight games for the act. The Browns decided to take a chance on the 24-year-old back, and he responded with more-than-stellar 43-179-2 rushing and 37-285-1 receiving lines during the second half of the 2019 season.

Of course, plenty of players put up numbers that are "empty" in the sense that they greatly benefited from their offensive lines and/or QBs. This has never been the case for Hunt, who possesses a ridiculous ability to leave oncoming defenders grasping for air (PFF):

  • 2017: Hunt leads the league with 77 broken tackles. His average of 0.24 broken tackles per touch ranks fourth among qualified backs.
  • 2018: Tied for fourth among all RBs in total broken tackles (53) despite missing five games. Averaged 0.26 broken tackles per attempt, finishing second among RBs to only Dalvin Cook (0.27).
  • 2019: Averaged a league-best 0.42 broken tackles per touch. Josh Jacobs (0.3) was second.

Hunt didn't play enough with the Browns to post gaudy production, but it was clear he more than resembled the same baller that took over games at times for the Chiefs. Both of these RBs are studs.

Buy both Browns RBs in 2020

Chubb averaged 19.2 carries and four targets per game in Weeks 1-9 without Hunt, working as the PPR RB6 along the way.

Their committee was plenty productive in Weeks 10-17 once Hunt was eligible to return from suspension:

  • Chubb per game: 18 carries, 2.1 targets, PPR RB15
  • Hunt per game: 5.4 carries, 5.5 targets, PPR RB17

The Browns got Hunt on the field for at least 55% of the offense's snaps in all eight games thanks to a heavy dose of a two-RB formations. Chubb was between 50-81% during this stretch.

Clearly the disparity in average draft position between Chubb (PPR RB10) and Hunt (RB31) is due to the likelihood that the former back works as the lead RB and flirts with a 300-touch workload. Chubb's ADP is more than fair; he's my RB10 and offers a floor of a high-end RB2 with a legit overall No. 1 RB ceiling.

Hunt is looking like a premiere value at the moment. There isn't a guarantee that he'll see the same role that he had in the second half of last season, but new head coach Kevin Stefanski does have a history of utilizing plenty of formations other than three-WR sets. It'd make more sense if the Browns prioritize two-RB formations over two-TE sets, particularly after how good Hunt was during the second half of last season. Their decision to not invest anything more than a late-round pick to address their No. 3 WR spot adds further evidence to the idea that this could be a two-RB base offense.

Worst case: Hunt offers league-winning handcuff upside if disaster strikes. Best case: Hunt sees a large role as a receiver-friendly RB that flirts with weekly-RB2 production and has RB1-boom weeks. Currently being priced as a low-end RB3, Hunt is worth drafting at this value.

Ian Hartitz

All things NFL. Great day to be great. You can follow Ian on Twitter @Ihartitz.