One of the truisms about the NFL Draft is that talent is where you find it.
While the big football factories are the go-to hot spots for finding talent, teams scour the small schools for prospects who might have slipped through the recruiting cracks.
The same is true for colleges and recruiting. And when it comes to Oklahoma State, they had to look (roughly) 1,730 miles away to find one of the best runners in school history. That’s how far it is between Stillwater Oklahoma (where Oklahoma State is located), and Edmonton, Canada, where RB Chuba Hubbard went to high school.
Hubbard wasn’t exactly a well-kept secret up in Canada, not only rushing for 5,300 yards and 63 touchdowns in his last two years of high school, but also coming in fourth in the 100-meter dash in the 2015 IAAF World Youth Championship.
If the New York Giants are looking to add some speed to their offense and find a back-up for Saquon Barkley. Could Hubbard be the player they’re looking for?
Prospect: Chuba Hubbard
Games Played: 33
Carries: 585 carries
Yards (YPC): 3,459 (5.9 per carry)
Yards (YPC): 479 (9.0 per catch)
Total Touchdowns (rushing/receiving): 36 (33 rushing, 3 receiving)
Games Played: 7
Yards (YPC): 625 (4.7 per carry)
Yards (YPC): 52 yards (6.5 per catch)
Total Touchdowns (rushing/receiving): 6 (5 rushing, 1 receiving)
Best: Vision, contact balance, agility, burst, speed
Worst: Size, receiving ability, play strength when blocking
Projection: An important rotational running back in a zone blocking scheme.
Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard is a productive running back prospect with the potential to be an explosive playmaker. While not a big back, Hubbard has acceptable size for the position at the NFL level with enough thickness in his upper and lower body to grind out tough yards while maintaining his running style.
Hubbard primarily played out of the shotgun and pistol formations and in outside zone blocking schemes in Oklahoma State’s offense. Hubbard runs with good tempo behind the line of scrimmage, showing patience while his blocks are established, then a good burst through his chosen running lane. He has good vision, anticipating where his creases will materialize, as well as keeping track of defenders at the first and second levels. Hubbard routinely processes information in real time while running, both setting up defenders to fill the wrong gap and adjusting on the fly to target a new gap when his first choice is filled.
Hubbard does a good job of varying his stride length to suit the situation. He shows quick, choppy steps around the line of scrimmage to help pick his way through the tangle, while also lengthening his stride to maximize speed in the open field. He also has a compact running style, running with slightly lowered hips and pads to help aid his contact balance as he picks his way through traffic. Hubbard’s contact balance is generally very good, with the ability to run through arm tackles or bounce off glancing blows to pick up yards after contact.
Hubbard’s background as a Canadian track star shows itself in his long speed. He has the acceleration to turn modest gains into big plays when he can find open space.
Hubbard also shows good competitive toughness running behind his pads to pick up extra yards, as well as coming up to meet defenders when pass protecting.
But while Hubbard is a willing and aggressive pass protector, he doesn’t have very good technique and his play strength is lacking. Likewise, he will run behind his pads and fall forward to pick up extra yardage, but doesn’t have the size or strength to meet force with force.
Hubbard is also a limited receiving option. His route tree is largely limited to check-downs in the flat or the occasional wheel route and screen attempt. Likewise, he does not appear to be a natural “hands” receiver. Hubbard can be prone to trying to “basket catch” passes, letting them into his chest plate.
Overall Grade: 6.8 - Hubbard has the raw traits to be a consistent contributor who could work his way into a starting job. However, deficiencies in the passing game introduce some bust potential.
Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard projects as an important rotational back in a rushing attack which features zone blocking schemes.
Hubbard will likely be looked at as a “number two” back as a rookie, as his limitations in the passing game (both as a receiver and blocker) could limit his opportunities early in his career. However, the toughness and willingness he shows as a blocker and his ability with the ball in his hand suggest upside in the passing game with some work with NFL coaches.
Hubbard has the potential to be a consistent big play threat in the running game. While he took a step backward in 2020, he constantly appeared on the knife-edge of breaking a chunk play or touchdown run whenever he took a hand-off in 2019. He shows great agility, vision, and contact balance around the line of scrimmage, which generally translates into consistent production running the ball. He quickly identifies his running and cutback lanes, tracks defenders at multiple levels, and does a great job of making subtle changes in his track to throw off angles or carry momentum while changing running lanes. He has the ability to cut sharply or make would-be tacklers miss altogether with a good jump cut, but primarily relies on a smooth, almost gliding, running style.
His track background — including an impressive 10:55-second 100-meter dash at the ripe old age of 17 — shows itself when he hits the open field. Defenses often need to bring him down at the line of scrimmage or have safeties in perfect position, otherwise they will find themselves trying to run him down from behind.
Hubbard is a bit of a work in progress, and his 2020 ankle injury likely contributed to his regression that year. But if he can bring up his deficiencies and routinely play at his 2018-2019 level, he has the potential to be a strong value.