The video of Nick Chubb’s devastating knee injury in 2015 is the kind of footage that can’t be unseen. If you haven’t had the misfortune of watching the replay, I’d strongly suggest you don’t.
His knee bent and buckled in ways the human form was never intended to.
The injury was catastrophic for any football player, but especially a running back whose living is made with his legs. Knee injuries, like the one as bad as Chubb’s, can derail the most promising careers.
Prior to his injury, Chubb looked like the next special running back prospect. As a freshman in 2014, he rumbled for 1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns with an astonishing 7.1 yards per carry.
Believe it or not, he was actually having a better year in 2015 before getting hurt. In six games, Chubb ran for 747 yards and seven touchdowns and added another yard-per-carry to his total; He was gaining 8.1 yards on every run.
That’s ridiculous production.
His remarkable return to the field in 2016 was a story in itself. I honestly questioned if he’d ever play again. Fortunately for Chubb and football fans in general, he suited up for all 13 games last season and topped 1,000 yards (1,130 to be exact) and scored eight times.
But he wasn’t the same player. His yards-per-carry dropped to 5.0, which by his previously set standards was statistical evidence of the impact his injury had on his game. The tape told the same story, as Chubb was less explosive both from a straight-line and lateral quickness standpoint.
Still, Chubb ran like an NFL running back in 2016. He was physical, decisive and productive. He just wasn’t special, which is a requirement for running backs hoping to be first-round picks.
The good news is Chubb will be back in the SEC in 2017, now two years removed from injury. Barring any setbacks, he’ll be a lot closer to the 2014-2015 player than what we saw last year.
Even if Chubb is able to regain his form as a down-by-down dominant force between the tackles, I don’t think he’ll be able to outrun his injury in the eyes of NFL front offices. I suspect he’ll look and play the part of a first-round pick this fall, but the medical red flag attached to his knee will be the one tackle he won’t be able to break.
The best-case-scenario for Chubb looks and feels like the second round. And that’s not a bad thing. He could still end up a top-50 player by the time next April rolls around, but I’d be shocked if any team has the courage to draft him in Round 1.
Chubb will be one of the best storylines and most entertaining debates this draft season, especially if he punishes SEC defenses week in and week out.