With names like Najee Harris and Travis Etienne, the 2021 draft class is loaded with running backs. Chuba Hubbard of Oklahoma State is a strong sleeper candidate.
Hubbard rushed for 2,094 yards in 2019—the first Cowboys back since Barry Sanders to do so—and averaged 6.4 yards per carry. Although eligible for the 2020 draft, he decided to return to school and recorded just 625 yards at 4.7 yards per tote in 2020.
Hubbard attributed his down year to multiple surgeries, which isn’t a good sign at such a physical position.
“There were a lot of different things going on with my body and my health,” Hubbard said.
He only had 146 touches in 2018 and 141 in 2020, so there are concerns on if he can withstand the rigor of an NFL schedule. He’s not a big back at 6-feet tall and 210 pounds, and struggles to fight through contact.
Hubbard ran a 4.48 second 40-yard dash and completed the 3-cone drill in 7.24 seconds. Both marks are average for a running back, and his stock may continue to slide.
Despite the injury concerns, Hubbard remains an explosive downhill running back.
“I’m a very raw player,” Hubbard said. “I feel that I do a lot of things well, but… I’ve got a lot of room to grow.”
He cited his hands, outlets and pass protection as particular areas to improve.
As of right now, Hubbard projects as a rotational player with developmental upside. The potential is there, as evidenced by his 2,000 yard season in 2019, but he has a lot to work on to prove his place in the NFL.
Because of that tenuous position, his draft stock is something of a mystery as well. Teams could take a flier on him early on Day 2 because of his talent, but he could be available late on Day 3 if teams shy away because of the question marks surrounding him.
Taking running backs early is a risky proposition, especially one with as many doubts surrounding him as Hubbard. If he’s available late, though, he could be a solid value pick with upside for the Steelers’ offense, and certainly could be preferable to picking a back early with pressing needs across the board.