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Nick Chubb: 2020 Rushing Champ and Top-Five Fantasy RB

Nick Chubb has established himself as one of the premier pure runners in the NFL, rushing for 2,490 yards and 16 touchdowns on 490 attempts (5.1 yards per attempt) in his two-year career. At 5'11, 227-lbs, Chubb is a bruising back with 90th-percentile scores in speed and burst. Chubb can fight for the tough yards between the tackles and also take it to the house using his 4.52 speed. Simply put, this is a back with the ideal combination of size and speed.

Despite his limitations in the passing game - 36 receptions for 278 yards (7.7 yards per reception) in 2019 - Chubb has been a highly productive fantasy back, finishing as the RB11 in PPR points per game last year in his first full season as the starter. Chubb is currently being drafted as RB8 (13th overall in PPR leagues).

In this article, we'll take a look at why a change in scheme, improvements on the offensive line, and positive touchdown regression has the stars are aligning for a career season for the third-year back out of Georgia. Chubb is poised to deliver as the focal point of new head coach Kevin Stefanski's offense for the Browns.

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New Scheme

Stefanski brings over a run-heavy scheme that was highly successful with the Minnesota Vikings last season, allowing Dalvin Cook to have a career year where he ran for 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns on 250 attempts (4.5 yards per attempt) in 13 games. Let's take a look at the difference between the Vikings and Browns' schemes in 2019 to get a sense of what we'll see in 2020.

Pass ATT Rush ATT Rush YDS per Game Y/A Rush TD
Browns 539 (19th) 393 (22nd) 118.8 (12th) 4.8 (4th) 15 (T15th)
Vikings 466 (30th) 476 (4th) 133.3 (6th) 4.5 (12th) 19 (6th)

We can clearly see that Stefanski prefers to emphasize the running game, so it's safe to project an increase in rush attempts for the Browns in 2020. This is a prudent move because it can mitigate the turnover issues that have plagued quarterback Baker Mayfield (21 interceptions in 2019). The increase in rushing volume bodes well for Chubb, who should be able to sustain or even eclipse his rush attempts from 2019.

Detractors would argue that the presence of Kareem Hunt caps Chubb's upside, but there should be enough volume for both backs to provide fantasy value. Hunt will play a larger role on passing downs, as he's the superior receiver out of the backfield, so it's unlikely that his presence will impact Chubb's rushing volume too much. If we project the Browns to run the ball 450 times, Chubb should be good for 300 attempts.

Some would also point out the talent in the Browns' passing game to attempt to disprove the transition to a run-heavy offense. With wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, they figure that there is too much talent here to waste by running the football so frequently. But there are two things to point out with that statement: 1) The Vikings also had a terrific receiving corps with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, yet they still emphasized the run; 2) Jarvis Landry is recovering from hip surgery, so he'll start the year on the PUP list.

The Browns signed tight end Austin Hooper to a lucrative deal in free agency, signifying their desire to move towards more 12 personnel (two wide receivers, two tight ends), using a combination of Hooper and David Njoku. We can also see Stefanski deploy three tight ends to help with the running game, as the team also drafted Harrison Bryant in the fourth round. The signs are clear: the Browns are going to establish the run and pound the football.


Improved Offensive Line

The Browns beefed up their offensive line this offseason with the addition of two offensive tackles: veteran Jack Conklin in free agency and rookie Jedrick Wills in the draft. Both of these linemen are known for their run-blocking, so the Browns should have a significantly improved unit for Stefanski to run his scheme at full capacity. This bodes well for Chubb, as the Browns' offensive line was an unmitigated disaster this past season.

In fact, the Browns ranked dead-last in runs to the left in 2019. It speaks volumes about his talent as a runner to produce behind such poor run-blocking. This year, Chubb will be running behind perhaps the most-improved offensive line in football.


Positive Touchdown Regression

Chubb's eight rushing touchdowns are a low number considering the amount of volume he received in the red-zone.

Inside 20 Inside 10 Inside 5
50 ATT (4th) 32 ATT (T1st) 15 ATT (T3rd)
6 TD (15th) 4 TD (T25th) 2 TD (T38th)

As we can here, Chubb had a tough time in the red-zone due to his lackluster offensive line. He was tied for first in carries inside the 10 with Dalvin Cook (11 TD) and Christian McCaffrey (10 TD), but finished with six fewer touchdowns. He tied for third in carries inside the five, behind Christian McCaffrey (8 TD), Joe Mixon (4 TD), Dalvin Cook (9 TD), and Mark Ingram (8 TD), but only put up two touchdowns. This will change under Stefanski.

It's also encouraging to see how much work Dalvin Cook received in the red-zone.

Inside 20 Inside 10 Inside 5
43 ATT (T5th) 32 ATT (T1st) 15 ATT (T3rd)
12 TD (T2nd) 11 TD (T1st) 9 TD (T1st)

Cook was able to put up this type of high volume between the 20s despite missing the final two games of the season (he also left early in the third quarter prior to these two games).  This demonstrates how Stefanski likes to feed his franchise back in the red-zone. Chubb will likely see positive regression here because of the new scheme and improved offensive line, making double-digit touchdowns a virtual lock in 2020.


Final Thoughts

The Browns are an improved team heading into 2020 because they fixed their biggest weakness: the offensive line. They no longer face the pressure that burdened them as the media darling heading into the 2019 season. This team is going to be in playoff contention, which means that they'll be leading in games more often in 2020, resulting in more volume for Chubb.

Don't worry about Kareem Hunt, there are enough slices on this pie for both backs to eat. Nick Chubb is going to win the rushing title and finish as a top-five fantasy back.

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