The expectation is that the Cleveland Browns will continue, like the rest of the NFL, to become more and more pass-heavy in 2023. The amount of money owed to QB Deshaun Watson and the way the rules are set up makes it almost necessary.
For Browns fans, this will always be a difficult premise to accept even if/when it is successful. There is an old-school mentality of toughness that comes with Cleveland fans where running the ball and strong defense should make a difference.
Over the last decade, it just isn’t true.
It can also be difficult for fans because RB Nick Chubb has been the surest thing on the team since Hue Jackson finally put him in the lineup (after John Dorsey forced him to by trading Carlos Hyde).
Last year, Chubb had the third-most rushing yards on the third-most attempts in the league. For the first time in his career, the Georgia star topped the 300-carry mark while also catching 27 passes.
Chubb didn’t lead the league in rushing but he did lead it in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) for running backs:
Next up are the running backs where Nick Chubb, widely seen as the best pure rusher in the league, offers up the most value by WAR. pic.twitter.com/QU0TaGjNSw— Sam Hoppen (@SamHoppen) February 21, 2023
As it is in baseball, where WAR became commonly known, Wins Above Replacement compares players to the average player at their position.
While Chubb led the NFL’s running backs in WAR, his 0.79 would not have ranked him in the top 30 of wide receivers. Instead, he’d be comparable to Alec Pierce, KJ Osborn and injury-limited seasons for Ja’Marr Chase and Cooper Kupp.
Running backs will always have value but, at least with this one analytical data point, it is clear that they don’t carry the same weight as the receiver position. Chubb is the best of the best at his position and should continue to be an important part of the Browns offense, just maybe not as important as he has been in the past.