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Chuba Hubbard

Don't forget this modest back on draft day

A little while back I had some not-so-flattering things to say about Chuba Hubbard. I think he's a pretty marginal talent, and that hasn't changed. But opportunity counts for a lot, and Hubbard seems pretty likely to be a Week 1 starter (probably longer than that).

Panthers coach Dave Canales conceded yesterday that second-round running back Jonathon Brooks, who tore his ACL in November, might not be ready for the start of training camp. This is surprising only to those who placed any stock in a quote from Brooks himself saying he expected to be fine by camp.

This is your annual reminder that players are usually optimistic about their own recovery times, and that quotes from them should generally be disregarded. Brooks wants to play as soon as possible. The Panthers are a rebuilding team that gains nothing by rushing their rookie onto the field. I love Brooks in dynasty and selected him at 1.08 of a rookie draft. But I have virtually no interest in him in 2024. I've seen him drafted as a starter, which is nuts. Maybe by the second half of the season. But there is no upside for the team to bring him back until he's 100 percent.

So back to Hubbard, who also had a nice college career, and soundly beat out free agent signing Miles Sanders for the top running back job last year. Not a special talent, but he did some stuff well a year ago in Carolina's broken offense.

Specifically, he was really good in the passing game (and note that both Canales and offensive coordinator Brad Idzik come over from Tampa Bay, where Rachaad White last year ranked 4th in running back receptions and 3rd in yards, with a 64-549-3 receiving line). Hubbard's work in this area will probably keep him in the mix for passing downs work even when Brooks is healthy. Which yesterday's report suggests won't be much before the start of the season, if then.

Last year there were 46 running backs to see at least 30 targets in the passing game. Canales' starter last year, White, had the best catch rate of those backs, catching over 91 percent of them. Hubbard wasn't far back, catching 39 of 44, so nearly 89 percent.

Rachaad White, T.B.99070645493991.4%
Isiah Pacheco, K.C.93549442442989.8%
Samaje Perine, Den.23856504550189.3%
Chuba Hubbard, Car.90244392330588.6%
Alvin Kamara, N.O.69486754661687.2%
Jaleel McLaughlin, Den.41036311602386.1%
Roschon Johnson, Chi.35240342090285.0%
Brian Robinson, Was.73343363684983.7%
Zach Charbonnet, Sea.46240332090182.5%
Jaylen Warren, Pitt.78474613700482.4%
Tony Pollard, Dall.100567553110682.1%
James Conner, Ari.104033271652981.8%
James Cook, Buff.112254444454681.5%
Antonio Gibson, Was.26559483892381.4%
Joe Mixon, Cin.1034645237631281.3%
Kenneth Gainwell, Phil.36437301830281.1%
Javonte Williams, Den.77458472282581.0%
Christian McCaffrey, S.F.1459836756472180.7%
Breece Hall, NYJ99495765914980.0%
D'Andre Swift, Phil.104949392141679.6%
Travis Etienne, Jac.1008735847611279.5%
Devin Singletary, Hou.89838301930478.9%
Ezekiel Elliott, N.E.64265513132578.5%
Kenneth Walker, Sea.90537292591978.4%
Raheem Mostert, Mia.1012322517532178.1%
Jerick McKinnon, K.C.6032251924578.1%
Derrick Henry, Ten.1167362821401277.8%
Michael Carter, 2TM18731241011177.4%
Najee Harris, Pitt.103538291700876.3%
Rhamondre Stevenson, N.E.61951382380474.5%
Tyjae Spears, Ten.45370523851374.3%
Jahmyr Gibbs, Det.945715231611173.2%
DeVon Achane, Mia.800372719731173.0%
Zack Moss, Ind.79437271922773.0%
Justice Hill, Balt.38739282061471.8%
Emari Demercado, Ari.28430211190270.0%
Jerome Ford, Cle.81363443195969.8%
Aaron Jones, G.B.65643302331369.8%
Austin Ekeler, LAC62874514361668.9%
Josh Jacobs, L.V.80554372960668.5%
Saquon Barkley, NYG962604128041068.3%
Alexander Mattison, Min.70044301923368.2%
Bijan Robinson, Atl.97686584874867.4%
Kyren Williams, LAR1144483220631566.7%
Miles Sanders, Car.43241271540165.9%
Khalil Herbert, Chi.61131201341364.5%

Safe to say that Sanders won't be getting those opportunities. He shows up next to last in this table, catching just 66 percent of his chances.

I still like Brooks, but if I'm guessing who Carolina's best running back will be the first two months of the season, it's probably Hubbard. And he'll be available a lot later in drafts.

--Andy Richardson

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