When I think of Georgia football, I think of guys like Herschel Walker and Rodney Hampton running through defenders with their giant, melon-sized shoulder pads on. I think of Garrison Hearst running for an NCAA-leading 21 touchdowns in 1992. I think of Todd Gurley setting the world on fire with 1,300-plus rushing yards and 17 touchdowns as a true freshman. And now, I think of college football’s recent “thunder and lightning” duo in Nick Chubb and Sony Michel.
The Bulldogs have had an embarrassment of riches at the running back position for a very long time, so if you’re the Detroit Lions, it might be a good idea to take a long, hard look between the hedges and invest in one of Georgia’s stud running back prospects.
Of the two aforementioned Georgia backs entering this year’s draft, I believe that Nick Chubb is the better prospect and a better fit for the Lions.
RB Nick Chubb to Washington, Seattle, Tampa Bay?— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) January 4, 2018
Senior Analyst @PFF_Steve identifies the best pro fits for 2018 NFL draft prospects in the College Football Playoff finalhttps://t.co/wfCQOlsw0w pic.twitter.com/kHyvO9E61B
As a freshman, Chubb stepped in for Todd Gurley—who suffered a season-ending knee injury—and took the SEC by the reins. His 2015 Heisman-esque sophomore campaign came to an unfortunate end after a gruesome leg injury and his production was never quite the same, though Chubb did show some flashes of his old self last year.
Can Chubb return to his old form?
Chubb’s 2014 and 2015 film is truly something else.
In an alternate universe, Chubb never tore three ligaments in his left knee back in 2015 and at this moment in time, we’re talking about why he’s just as worthy as both Derrius Guice or Saquon Barkley to be the first running back off the board in April. His quickness, decisiveness and explosiveness was the closest thing I’ve seen to Todd Gurley.
Following the injury, Chubb was determined to get back onto the football field and to do so quickly. As a part of his recovery plan, Chubb decided to work with the director of sports medicine at Georgia, Ron Courson, who included MMA-style training into his rehab.
Chubb returned to the football field 11 months after damaging his knee and despite ripping apart the Tar Heels in his first game back for 222 rushing yards on 6.9 (nice) yards per carry and two touchdowns, his overall performance in 2016 showed us a mere remnant of what he was once capable of.
Yards after contact
Grab the remote, and fast forward to 2018.
Yep, Nick Chubb is back.
As seen in the play above, Chubb is extremely tough to bring down and more often than not, if you try to go low on him, he’s going to put you in the dirt. Chubb runs with a low center of gravity and has impeccable balance due to his compact body type and running style.
If you’re wondering why you didn’t see this play during the National Championship, that’s because it didn’t happen. This was during their meeting in 2015 where Chubb ran for 143 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Once again, Chubb plows through the defense like a freight train and keeps his legs churning until the whistle blows.
What’s even more impressive with Chubb is his insane leg drive. Take this play for example, where he’s met by a gang of South Carolina defenders two and a half yards from the goal line and wills his way into the end zone without any push from his blockers. Nick Chubb is a freak.
Vision and mental processing
Another nuance to Chubb’s game is his decision making and quick mental processing at the line of scrimmage.
Chubb’s main job on this zone run is to watch the right tackle and decide whether to cut up field if he has inside leverage or bounce it outside otherwise. At the start of the play, the RT (#71) is positioned on the outside of the play-side defensive end (initially lined up in the 3-technique), but when the defender overcommits to the outside and the center (#53) seals his block on the inside, Chubb seamlessly cuts upfield and gets skinny through the hole for the 11-yard gain.
Not only does Chubb make the right read on this goal-line play by side stepping a defender, but he shows some nice improvisation skills by using his off arm and shoving a defender plus his own tight end into the end zone and following them both in there for a score.
One of the things that made me fall in love with Kareem Hunt last year was his nonsensical ability to politely decline defender’s attempts at tackling him. You often needed a gang of tacklers to bring that man down, and that rings true for our boy Chubb as well.
Even during Chubb’s “off-year” in 2016, he brought to light some of the quickness that he once had pre-injury and puts the game out of reach on this run after shaking off multiple tackles. Chubb is a load (sorry) to bring down and one of the most violent runners in this draft class.
Nick Chubb was rarely included in the passing game at Georgia, with most of the receptions going to Sony Michel, though there is no reason to believe that Chubb couldn’t handle those duties at the next level.
Teams may wonder why Chubb was limited as a receiving back and as a pass protector (he looked okay in this regard) with Georgia and whether he’s a three-down back in the NFL.
There are some concerns in the scouting community whether Chubb has the speed and suddenness to get to the edge against NFL defenses, and while I don’t necessarily understand why this is a thing (he has plenty of speed and burst), it’s worth monitoring how he tests at the NFL Combine.
Obviously, the knee injury in 2015 is also going to be a major point of focus with Chubb’s medical examinations and could possibly scare off a team or two. Here is a full (maybe incomplete) report on his injury history:
- Thumb surgery (2014) -- Ruled out for 1 game; Carried the ball 4 times anyway
- Minor ankle injury (2015) -- Missed 0 games
- Gruesome left knee injury (2015) -- Out for remainder of 2015 season. Tore three ligaments in his knee, but no harm to ACL.
- Ankle (2016) -- Ruled out for 1 game; Had one carry anyway
The good news for Chubb is that he somehow escaped any damage to his ACL and avoided any nerve damage after that brutal knee injury in 2015, so there likely shouldn’t be any concern for any long-term damage/effects (bear with me here, because I am the furthest thing from a doctor).
Player comparison: A young Frank Gore with a side of Kareem Hunt
It’s early, but Chubb is my No. 3 ranked running back in this year’s class, and my No. 1 option for the Lions including Derrius Guice and Saquon Barkley.
No matter who the Lions hire and no matter what offense they run, Nick Chubb will fit it. He has the quick mental processing and agility to excel in any zone scheme, plus the vision, patience and explosiveness to thrive in a power scheme. You name it, he’s got it.
There is no better way for the Lions to improve their run game (other than finally putting together a competent offensive line) than to draft one of the top RB prospects in the draft where the class is loaded near the top. There is a decent chance that Nick Chubb will be there in the second round, and if he is, then I pray that Bob Quinn doesn’t pass up on such a talented player at a major position of need.