Our quarterback preview is in the books, so next up, we move on to the running back position. This will be broken down into two parts, starting with Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, and Dontrell Hilliard.
1. Nick Chubb - Starting RB
Height: 5-11 | Weight: 227 lbs | Age: 24
Experience: 3 years | College: Georgia
It seems like the sky is the limit for Nick Chubb. After an impressive rookie season, he broke out last year while having a much heavier workload. He finished the season with 298 carries for 1,494 yards (5.0 YPC) and 8 touchdowns, to go along with 36 catches for 278 yards.
Pro Football Focus has also been very high on Chubb, grading him their number one running back over the past two seasons, while also forcing the most missed tackles (110) in the NFL, all while having the 24th-ranked offensive line during that time. Could Chubb’s ceiling be even higher with the improvements the Browns have made at the tackle positions?
The speed that Chubb puts on display is outstanding. I was riding my bike down a slight hill the other day with a smart watch on, and it clocked me at 17 MPH (I was not pedaling going down the hill). Then I remembered the clip online that shows Chubb last year blasting off with a 22 MPH head of steam, which seems hard to fathom. Making the rounds on Twitter today is the fact that Chubb was recently clocked with a 4.3 time in the 40-yard dash:
The one change I think we should expect to see this season is a little less of a workload for Chubb. Even though the Browns had Kareem Hunt for half the season last year, he wasn’t involved in the offense as much as I would expect as far as carries go. I think we’ll see Kevin Stefanski get the best out of both backs in order to keep them as fresh as possible.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
2. Kareem Hunt - Backup RB
Height: 5-11 | Weight: 216 lbs | Age: 24
Experience: 4 years | College: Toledo
Despite playing in 8 games last year, Kareem Hunt only had 43 carries for 179 yards (4.2 YPC) and 2 touchdowns on the ground. That comes to about 5 carries per game, but I expect that to increase to around 10-12 carries per game this year.
Hunt has always been a good receiver too. As a rookie, he had 53 catches for 455 yards and 3 touchdowns. In 2018, he played 11 games before being suspended and had 26 catches for 378 yards and 7 touchdowns. Last year with Cleveland, he had 37 catches for 285 yards and 1 touchdown. Chubb and Hunt are not carbon copies of each other, but they are both well above average on the ground and as receivers.
Hunt says that he wants to stay in Cleveland for a long time, especially since he knows so many people here. As far as his role, he says the only thing that matters is winning, and he will appreciate having any opportunity to contribute to that, regardless of what his stats look like:
We have to know there is only one football, so every game—everyone will not have a big game. As long as we win, that is the only thing that matters and that is the biggest thing. We have to understand that. If we are winning, I am not mad. I am going to do whatever. If that is block to help win—whatever—touchdowns, block, whatever. But we all have to know there is only one football. Some games, WR Odell (Beckham Jr.) might have 200 yards. Some games, RB Nick (Chubb) might have 400 yards, or whatever, and Jarvis might have 10 or something like that. But we won, so that is the only thing that matters.
Final Roster Odds: 100%
3. Dontrell Hilliard - Backup RB
Height: 5-11 | Weight: 202 lbs | Age: 25
Experience: 3 years | College: Tulane
When the Browns shipped Duke Johnson to the Texans last year, Dontrell Hilliard became the team’s backup running back for the first half of the season. The team seemed really high on him, and he actually had the team’s first rushing touchdown of the season. But things tapered off from there for him.
Hilliard finished the year with 13 carries for 49 yards (3.8 YPC) and 2 touchdowns, and had 12 catches for 92 yards. His blocking ability was nothing to write home about, and among fans, he could never shake the reputation of being a lesser version of Johnson. He also had a couple of key drops on passes that went off his hands, leading to crippling interceptions. Even if they weren’t entirely his fault (i.e. Baker Mayfield made some bad throws), fans were irate: “Why the heck is he in the game at receiver right now!?!”
Hilliard has the most experience among the rest of the running backs on the roster, but I don’t think his skillset does much to complement what Chubb and Hunt offer, putting him at a disadvantage for staying on the roster.
Final Roster Odds: 20%
How should the Browns utilize Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt?
This poll is closed
Chubb should be the workhorse back, with Hunt only playing in sub-packages or as a third down back
Both backs are great, so Cleveland should ride them both: Chubb gets more overall work (60%), but Hunt is not too far behind (40%).
Call me crazy, but I’d use Hunt a little more than Chubb on gameday.