Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb may not be the first player that some think of when discussing the game’s best running backs, but it’s impossible to deny his impact on game days.
In his five seasons with the Browns, Chubb has posted three of the top 11 rushing seasons in franchise history, two of the top 10 seasons in rushing touchdowns, and is currently fourth in rushing yards on the franchise’s all-time list and third in rushing touchdowns.
Chubb has also been a consistent performer in fantasy football as he has ranked in the top 10 among running backs in each of the past four seasons and posted his best finish in 2022 as he was No. 5 among running backs and No. 10 among all players, according to Pro Football Reference.
Here is what to expect from Chubb this season for any fantasy football owner lucky (and smart) enough to add him to their roster.
2022 fantasy performance
Nick Chubb’s season in 2022 was what would be a career year for most running backs, but for Chubb was simply a typical day at the office for the Browns’ featured back.
A career-best 1,525 rushing yards placed Chubb third in the league, while his 12 rushing touchdowns were tied for third-best. He also averaged 5 yards per carry, which while the envy of most running backs, marked a career-low for the fifth-year running back.
Chubb has not been much of a threat in the passing game, but that has had more to do with the presence of Kareem Hunt the past four seasons. Chubb may not put up big numbers as a receiver, but he is still a reliable option as he had 27 receptions for 239 yards — an average of 8.9 yards per catch — and a touchdown last season.
Overall, Chubb posted his fourth consecutive season as a top 10 running back for fantasy points.
With the Browns not expected to bring Hunt back for another season, and an unproven stable of running backs in Jerome Ford, Demetric Felton Jr., John Kelly Jr., Hassan Hall and Nate McCrary filling up the depth chart, Chubb will see even more action this upcoming season.
Couple that with a return-to-form from quarterback Deshaun Watson and suddenly opposing defenses will now have to defend the entire field and not load the box to stop Chubb. With Jacoby Brissett at quarterback for the first 11 games of last season, Chubb was facing eight defenders in the box on more than a third of his offensive snaps and still put up his usual high numbers. If defenses have to account for Watson and an improved receiving group, then Chubb should be able to put up even bigger numbers running against defenses not focused solely on slowing him down.
Two scenarios that fall into this category and they both revolve around quarterback Deshaun Watson.
If Watson does not regain the mojo that he displayed with the Houston Texans and the passing game falters, then Chubb will be right back to facing stacked boxes and this season could finally be the time that he can’t figure out how to solve that particular puzzle.
However, if Watson does deliver an expected return to form and the passing game takes off, that could limit the number of opportunities that Chubb has to perform his special type of magic. He will still be good — that much is a given — it’s just that his rushing yards and touchdowns could see a decline if Watson and the receivers are eating up all the yards and scoring.
Cleveland’s offense should look different this fall with Watson as the starting quarterback from Week 1, but Chubb is still the player on offense that opposing defenses should fear the most.
The 2023 outlook is strong. Chubb’s overall numbers may see a slight decline simply because Watson’s performance will take over some of the scoring, it is highly unlikely, for example, that the Browns will finish with just 19 touchdown passes again this season.
Even so, Chubb is the standard for running backs. Even a “down year” for him should result in 1,300 rushing yards and 10 rushing touchdowns, making him a solid addition for any fantasy owner looking to build a serious roster.
Ford is in line to take over the role formerly held by Kareem Hunt as Chubb’s primary backup. The Browns remain high on Ford after selecting him in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft with the idea that spending his rookie season behind Chubb and Hunt would be beneficial and make it easier for Ford to assume the backup role in his second season.
The opportunities were extremely limited for Ford as a rookie — he only carried the ball eight times — but with four preseason games on the slate this summer thanks to the Browns being part of the Hall of Fame Game, Ford should see more than enough action to have him ready to claim the majority of the backup snaps that once went to Hunt this fall.
Other Browns players to consider
A few other players of note for fantasy football owners, outside of Chubb and Watson, include wide receivers Amari Cooper (a consistent performer), Donovan Peoples-Jones (sleep on him at your own risk), Elijah Moore (playing with a real quarterback for the first time in his NFL career) and tight end David Njoku (not on the level of the game’s top tight ends, but a nice option to have on the roster).