Nick Chubb seemed destined to be the star of the 2016 running backs class when he stepped on Georgia's campus as a five-star recruit in 2014 and was named SEC Freshman of the Year months later.
He ran for 1,547 yards and 14 touchdowns and his 7.06 yards per carry were No. 12 among players with at least 100 carries. Of those 12, only two were freshman.
A devastating injury in 2015 that resulted in torn MCL, PCL and LCL ligaments in his left knee threatened to change everything, but Chubb, known as a workout warrior, made a quick recovery and played 13 games in 2016, rushing for 1,130 yards and eight touchdowns. The 5-foot-11, 228-pounder followed that with 1,345 yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior while splitting carries with Sony Michel. In the process he's flown a little under the radar as the 2018 draft approaches, and could be one of the best values at the position.
Penn State's Saquon Barkley is the clear-cut No. 1 running back available in NFL Draft beginning April 26, but there's debate on how a talented second-tier of backs aligns.
"It's a strong second tier," ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. "It's a variety of players there. Nyheim Hines from N.C. State is kind of a [Darren] Sproles-type guy. Rashaad Penny, all-around versatile big back. Sony Michel and Nick Chubb both from Georgia. Michel, if he had a little bit better ball security would probably be ahead of Chubb, but Chubb, just from a consistency standpoint, even though Michel finished stronger, may go a little bit higher. Kerryon Johnson from Auburn and Royce Freeman from Oregon. Kalen Ballage from Arizona State.
"That's a pretty good next tier. Of that group, the guy I like the best from that next tier would be Nick Chubb. With Hines more of a wild-card because he is so versatile."
Chubb finished his career with 4,769 rushing yards and 44 rush touchdowns, second behind only Herschel Walker in school history. His 4.52 40-yard dash at the NFL combine was tied for sixth fastest among running backs and his 29 bench-press reps tied Barkley for the most at the position.
It will be a shock if the Redskins don't take a running back sometime in the draft. The general thought is that No. 13 overall is too early, unless Barkley drops, but the fourth round could be too late to get in on that second tier of backs. Washington doesn't have a third-round pick, so after the second round (No. 44 overall), the next shot is at No. 109 in the fourth. The third round pick was part of the trade that brought quarterback Alex Smith from Kansas City.
Both coach Jay Gruden and Doug Williams, senior vice president of player personnel, have repeatedly talked about adding another running back after ranking 28th in the league in rushing yards in 2017 at 90.5 yards per game. The Redskins haven't had a run game ranked above No. 19 in the NFL since 2013.
Running backs seemed to have gotten a dime-a-dozen reputation recently, as teams have turned later round prospects into productive starters. Success in recent years with high picks, however, may have changed some of those opinions.
"If they're rated high, they're going to go high," Kiper said. "They're not getting forced up. These guys were all highly rated players coming out. So there weren't any surprises. The surprises were like the third-round pick of Kareem Hunt and Alvin Kamara, based on where they went. They played like Top 10 guys. That's why I always say, running backs you can find.
"As far as a Barkley, Barkley's grade is right in line with [Leonard] Fournette, Zeke Elliot, [Todd] Gurley. We always forget about Trent Richardson. Trent Richardson had a super-high grade coming out of Alabama and he was a major bust for two teams. . . . It's not like it's all perfect at the top. Richardson was the last big-time bust of the running backs that went in the top five."