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2021 NFL Draft rookie profile: Oklahoma State RB Chuba Hubbard

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Chuba Hubbard is a very interesting prospect entering the 2021 NFL Draft. His 2019 and 2020 collegiate campaigns were very different, making him a tough player to peg when forecasting his potential in the NFL. We know that there is a big three at the running back position in this draft class, but can Hubbard become the next best player at the position?

Chuba Hubbard’s production was electric in 2019

In his first season at Oklahoma State, Hubbard was a redshirt freshman, not suiting up at all. That changed in 2019, when Hubbard became the workhorse for the Cowboys, carrying the rock a whopping 328 times. That was the most among any player in all of college football that season, while Hubbard recorded 2,084 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns on those carries. He also caught 23 passes for nearly 200 yards through the air. That monster season put him on the map as a legitimate high-end running back prospect and despite being eligible to declare, Hubbard returned for the 2020 season. It definitely hurt, as Hubbard saw both Dezmon Jackson and L.D. Brown cut into his workload. Hubbard carried the ball 133 times for 625 yards and six touchdowns. His efficiency fell off before suffering a late-season ankle injury and Hubbard ultimately opted out of the season in December to focus on the draft. 

Strengths: Chuba Hubbard’s vision is a big-time asset

  • Terrific vision
  • Strong lateral agility
  • Good speed

Hubbard is a no-nonsense runner. He sees the hole and hits it with purpose and is decisive doing so, while his vision is arguably the strongest aspect of his game. Hubbard is very instinctive as a runner, as he’s able to find the holes or cutback lanes required for him to get to the second level. I often saw Hubbard use a nice jump-cut after receiving a handoff and he showcased very strong lateral agility on those cuts. He bounces well and once he sees a sliver of daylight, Hubbard doesn’t mess around and bursts through the hole. The majority of his carries came out of the shotgun. so it’s safe to say he is most comfortable running out of that formation, while he probably is best-suited in a zone-blocking scheme. We also saw Hubbard show some good speed at Oklahoma State and while it isn’t elite or anything, it is good enough. Outside of his skillset, it was a positive to see Hubbard able to handle such a large workload back in 2020 and not slow down at any point of the season, really. 

Weaknesses: Chuba Hubbard has showed some fumble issues

  • Ball security
  • Won’t shed many tackles
  • Below-average contact balance

It’s so strange to talk about Hubbard as a running back in a tier below the top of the class after such an outstanding 2019 campaign, but it holds true here after 2020. Hubbard has had issues with ball security over his career and has lost seven fumbles over just the last two seasons, an unsettling number. I noticed most of his fumbles weren’t really bad luck or great defensive plays, but rather Hubbard not carrying the ball high and tight. And when running with the football, Hubbard is far from an elite tackle-breaker, ranking 124th in the nation in yards after contact a season ago. I saw him get arm-tackled too many times and I’d just like to see him play with more physicality not just as a runner but as a pass-blocker, too. Issues with ball security and pass-protection aren’t exactly enticing for NFL teams when scouting a rookie running back so it’ll be paramount for Hubbard to tighten things up in those departments right away. 

Landing spots: Could Chuba Hubbard make sense with Atlanta?

Given his solid size and track record handling a heavy workload, I do believe that if the opportunity presented itself, Hubbard could be a first- and second-down grinder for an NFL team. Of course, he won’t be drafted as such, so he’ll likely settle in as a solid complementary back at the next level. If the Falcons want to wait to address the running back position, Hubbard could be a fit in that offense that is going to run plenty of zone-blocking concepts with new head coach Arthur Smith. I could also see the Denver Broncos, who have more pressing needs than running back, select Hubbard in the later rounds. Phillip Lindsay is gone and who knows how long Melvin Gordon will be with the team. The Broncos are also a team that ran plenty of zone last season and I could see Hubbard being a solid fit in Denver. 

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