It’s one of the biggest questions surrounding the Georgia football team this offseason — will running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel return to the Bulldogs, or are they headed to the NFL Draft?
One of the foremost experts on the subject, ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr., who specializes in grading college players’ draft stock, has a suggestion for both backs: stay.
“I don’t think Chubb or Michel has maximized his grade yet, and another year might allow that to happen,” Kiper told media including David Paschall of the Chattanooga Times Free Press on a conference call. “This year did not allow it to happen, so if you’re happy being a third-, fourth- or fifth-round pick, you come out. If you want to try and help your stock, you go back for another year.”
Both backs had productive seasons for Georgia, but neither was spectacular.
Chubb, coming off of a serious knee injury that cost him most of the 2015, led Georgia with 988 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns in 12 games, although he only played one snap against Tennessee due to injury. That being said, Chubb produced a career-low 82.33 yards per game, 10th among rushers in the SEC.
That leaves a lot of room for rebound for a player who ran for 119 yards per game as a true freshman in 2014 and then ran for 124.5 yards per game last season in six game before the injury. Chubb had as many touchdowns in six games last year as he did in 12 this season.
“Chubb was great early but fell back a bit and wasn’t as big-time and dynamic as you thought he would be,” Kiper said. “There were a lot of great running backs playing week in and week out, and I think that kind of pushed him down a little bit. He is not in the top 10 of the running back group.”
Michel was also rebounding from an injury after an ATV accident over the summer. He missed the season opener, but ran for 753 yards and 3 touchdowns in 11 games. Like Chubb, Michel saw a decrease in his yards per game (89.31 to 68.45) and touchdowns (8 to 3) from last season. Michel shined last season as the feature back when Chubb went down, but has otherwise not had the chance to do that in his career.
“With Michel, I would say be the main guy and go back,” Kiper said.
Chubb and Michel have until Jan. 16 to declare for the NFL Draft, which will be held April 27-29 in Philadelphia.