Simply stated, Nick Chubb’s performance as a rusher through two seasons has established him among the best runners in all of the NFL. He finished second in the league in rushing yards (1,494) last season, falling just 46 yards short of Derrick Henry’s total. Those yards did not come easy. The Cleveland offensive line was a mess last year, but Chubb salvaged a productive season with his elusiveness. Chubb finished second in the league in both evaded tackles and yards created last season, consistently showing the ability to gain yards independent of his line’s blocking. Chubb also has significant big-play ability. He finished first in the league in runs longer than 15 yards last season, and has already racked up touchdowns of 92, 88, 63, 41, and 33 yards in less than two seasons as a feature back. The Browns upgraded multiple positions on their offensive line this offseason, and Chubb should return as the starter working alongside passing-down back Kareem Hunt. Assuming he stays healthy and Hunt does not assume a larger role than anticipated, there is little reason to think Chubb will not finish among the league leaders in rushing again this year. Improved efficiency from the Cleveland offense as a whole would also spell higher touchdown upside for Chubb, who only managed eight (12th among running backs) last season despite having the fifth-most red-zone touches.
The downside in Chubb’s fantasy outlook lies in the passing game. Chubb has shown himself to be a capable pass catcher in the past, but Hunt’s presence in the same backfield means he will come off the field on most third downs and even more frequently when the Browns face a negative game script. Hunt was suspended for the first half of last season, and this led to a spike in Chubb’s passing game usage with him catching 25 passes on four targets per game before Week 9. Once Hunt returned, Chubb’s involvement in the passing game was cut in half. He received just over two targets per game and only managed 11 receptions from Week 9 on. Hunt is not facing any suspension this season so there is no reason to think he will suddenly disappear from his role in the offense in 2020. With Hunt continuing to monopolize most of the passing game at the running back position, Chubb has a lower floor and ceiling than the other premier runners going at the top of fantasy drafts.
2020 Bottom Line
Chubb’s talent and role as the early-down back on what should be a productive offense mean he carries substantial weekly upside. It would not be a surprise whatsoever if Chubb finished among the league leaders in both rushing yards and touchdowns this season. However, his diminished role in the passing game means he is more game script dependent than the elite running backs and renders him a low-end RB1.