Fantasy owners around the country had their hearts sink as Christian McCaffrey came up gimpy early in the 2nd quarter on Thursday night against the Texans. A strong start to the season saw McCaffrey sitting at RB2 across all fantasy leagues entering Week 3. His most recent hamstring injury clouds his fantasy outlook, but also propels rookie fourth round pick Chuba Hubbard into fantasy relevance for the first time. McCaffrey’s injury was not deemed significant, but after missing time last year due to multiple injuries, it is fair to question if Hubbard can potentially be a long term safety valve for fantasy owners scrambling to claim him at the waiver wire. Let’s breakdown who Chuba Hubbard is and what kind of impact we can expect him to have with McCaffrey sidelined.
Who is Chuba Hubbard?
Chuba Hubbard was a standout running back playing Canadian football in Alberta, Canada. After a standout high school career, he committed to play for the Oklahoma State Cowboys in 2017.
After redshirting his first year, he stepped into a rotational role in 2018 with current Baltimore Raven Justice Hill. Each player was able to accumulate at least 965 all-purpose yards and nine touchdowns. 2019 is where he really broke out. Hubbard led the nation in rushing (2,094) at 6.4 yards per carry with 21 touchdowns, leading to unanimous All-American honors.
Despite his breakout season, he elected to return to school in 2020. During his redshirt junior season he struggled to build on his 2019 efforts and eventually opted out before the season’s end. His draft stock as a result took a hit. He was drafted eighth among his position in a relatively weaker class this year after being considered a top six running back in the 2020 Draft.
Fantasy Outlook Coming Into 2021
Hubbard was an fantasy afterthought during peak draft season. He was not considered a top 50 running back across major platforms such as Yahoo, ESPN, and CBS due to the bell cow workload of Christian McCaffrey, who was being taken number one overall in most fantasy drafts. This situation in particular is why drafting your handcuff can be considered essential, especially with a resume like Hubbard.
Mike Davis’ Fantasy Impact in 2020
Christian McCaffrey missed significant time in 2020 after going down with a high ankle sprain in Week 2. A shoulder injury in his Week 9 return however, caused him to miss the remainder of the year. Mike Davis had only one season of 375 all-purpose yards in his first five seasons on four different teams.
Davis wound up being the waiver wire pick up of the year. He finished as a top 12 running back in PPR (206.5 FPTS) and was RB6 between Weeks 3-16. He finished the year with a career-best 1,015 all-purpose yards and ranked fourth among running backs with 59 receptions.
What to expect from Chuba Hubbard
It will be interesting to see if the rookie can match Davis’ 2020 production. Hubbard led the backfield in snap count in Carolina’s Week 3 win in Houston with a 55% snap share. In the second half he had multiple chunk gains to put the game away, finishing with 79 yards on 14 touches.
Carolina will be vying to replace McCaffrey’s league-high 30 touches per game and Hubbard should be the primary beneficiary in his absence. As a result, he should be in store for at least 15-18 touches and considered a top 15 running back with a solid floor. The opportunity could be short-lived however, with Head Coach Matt Rhule announcing McCaffrey will not be placed on IR.
All in all with McCaffrey’s return looking to be just a few weeks away, Hubbard will have an opportunity to provide fantasy owners with a pair of starting-caliber performances. He should revert back into his bench role upon McCaffrey’s return, but that should not automatically lead to being dropped from your roster.
If he is able to show out against Dallas and Philadelphia, that may buy the Panthers time for CMC to fully heal, ultimately leading to a few more starting opportunities. Hamstring injuries have a tendency to linger, so keeping Hubbard around provides an investment that can pay off long term. If you have the extra roster spot available, he might rival Alexander Mattison and A.J. Dillon as one of the best handcuffs worth keeping around.
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