Nick Chubb had a number of special moments during his time at Georgia. He finished as the SEC’s second all-time leading rusher, aced the NFL combine and has absolutely zero character concerns. Were it not for his most well-known moment, Chubb likely would be joining Saquon Barkley and possibly teammate Sony Michel in hearing his name called during the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft on Thursday night.
Unfortunately, because of Chubb‘s first and only carry against Tennessee in 2015, he won’t be a first-round pick. On the play, Chubb planted his left foot but his knee buckled backward. He ended up tearing just about every ligament in his knee except for his ACL. He didn’t play again that season, and he admits he wasn’t the same player when he returned to the field for his junior season.
Even after rushing for 2,475 yards — his career total was 4,769, second only to Herschel Walker’s 5,259 in SEC history — and being more than two years removed from the injury, Chubb was still questioned about the knee injury during the pre-draft process. He knew that would be the case, and with every question about how sore or healthy the knee is, the former Georgia star has given a very honest answer about his progress.
“Everyone asks me about it. ‘How does it feel? Does it get sore?’ Everyone has questioned me about it,” Chubb said. “It took time, but it got better and felt better every time I got to run on it and play on it. It definitely took a while to get back, but it does feel really good right now.”
Chubb figures to be selected at some point on Friday night, whether it be in the second or third round. And while that doesn’t come with the glory of being a first-round NFL draft pick, it also doesn’t mean he’s going to be a reserve running back and log minimal carries.
A season ago, there were two running backs taken in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Jacksonville selected LSU’s Leonard Fournette with the No. 4 pick, and four selections later, Carolina grabbed Christian McCaffrey of Stanford.
But it turned out that it was two who were taken in the third round who would go on to have the best seasons: Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamara. A Tennessee product, Kamara won the NFL’s Rookie of the Year as a member of the New Orleans Saints. Le’Veon Bell, arguably the best running back in the NFL, wasn’t taken in the first round either, as he went in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
A number of draft experts are very fond of Chubb even though he’ll probably be drafted lower than his productivity indicates he should be. Mike Mayock of the NFL Network said Chubb could be a home run for some team, while ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. said he might be the best player selected on Friday.
“The guy I like on Day 2 who could be a really good player is Georgia running back Nick Chubb,” Kiper Jr. said. “His injury history is what is keeping him out of the first round, but I really think he’s going to play early and often in 2018. He could make a Kareem Hunt-like impact.
As for landing spot, Chubb has said he doesn’t have a preference. He just wants the draft process to be over so the questions about his knee will stop.
“I just want to get drafted and get back to playing football,” Chubb said.