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Fantasy Football: Will both Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt return high-end production?

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 2021 season. Click here to read the series of questions answered so far.

PFF recently released its top 32 running back units ahead of the 2021 season. First place was hardly a surprise: Cleveland Browns RBs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt are both arguably top-10 talents in their own right; together they’re borderline unstoppable.

Editor's Note: PFF's 2021 Fantasy Football Draft Guide and 2021 Fantasy Football Cheat Sheets are LIVE!

Of course, the only reason why the Browns are so blessed to have two of the league’s best backs comes down to Hunt’s past off-the-field issues that led to his release from the Kansas City Chiefs and an eight-game suspension. Because of Hunt’s past issues, as well as Chubb’s rookie contract, the Browns have been spending a relatively modest sum on two highly capable backs. The team just signed Chubb to a three-year, $36.6 million extension on July 31

The idea that running backs don’t matter has always been more about investing resources elsewhere on the roster inside of the NFL’s salary cap environment. Obviously, all 32 teams want the best player possible at all 22 positions; credit to the Browns for managing to field most people’s idea of the league’s single-best running back room on a budget.

What follows is a breakdown on just how good Chubb and Hunt have been over the years and what to make of their fantasy value ahead of 2021.

Both Chubb and Hunt have largely done nothing except ball out

Since 2017, both backs rank among the league’s most efficient rushers at the position.

  • PFF rushing grade: Chubb No. 2 among 115 qualified backs; Hunt No. 10
  • Yards per carry: Chubb tied for No. 3; Hunt tied for No. 29
  • Yards after contact per carry: Chubb No. 1; Hunt tied for No. 12
  • Missed tackles forced per attempt: Chubb No. 1; Hunt tied for No. 3

Derrick Henry is the only running back that really holds a candle to what Chubb has been accomplishing on the ground. The overall broken tackle king in 2019, Chubb is your favorite running back’s favorite running back and nearly impossible to get to the ground with one defender.

Hunt certainly has plenty of highlights himself, but the real difference between the two comes down to receiving ability. Chubb isn’t the world’s biggest liability as a receiver, but the disparity between the pair in pass-game ability remains clear:

  • PFF receiving grade: Chubb (tied for No. 80 among 121 qualified backs); Hunt (No. 8)
  • Yards per reception: Chubb (tied for No. 47); Hunt (tied for No. 15)
  • Yards after the catch per reception: Chubb (No. 22); Hunt (tied for No. 28)
  • Yards per route run: Chubb (No. 97); Hunt (No. 26)
  • Drop rate: Chubb (tied for No. 71); Hunt (tied for No. 64)

The Browns experimented with Chubb as a receiver but ultimately didn’t deploy him in the slot or out wide for more than eight snaps in a single game. It’s a shame: Hunt has routinely shredded defenders of all shapes and sizes when utilized as a true receiver. Small sample size be damned, Hunt posted a position-best 153.8 QB rating when targeted in the slot or out wide among 35 backs with at least five such targets.

The million dollar question in fantasy land ….

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