CFB Player Bracket: Nick Chubb vs. Reuben Foster
It’d be unfair to use one play to determine the outcome of a matchup, but Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Alabama’s Reuben Foster have one of the more lopsided plays to highlight in the entire bracket.
Chubb took advantage of Foster’s indecision to take it 83 yards for the score, but this battle is about more than just one play. Despite going down to injury after only 183 snaps last season, Chubb enters the 2016 season right near the top of the plethora of running back talent, while Foster is poised to build upon a strong 2015 to become the next household name among a strong recent tradition of Alabama linebackers. How do both players stack up in this first-round matchup?
The case for Nick Chubb
One of the nation’s most difficult running backs to tackle, Chubb is looking to bounce back from a season-ending injury to re-establish his place among the best backs in the country. He posted incredible numbers as a true freshman in 2014, including the third-best elusive rating against Power-5 competition—behind only his teammate and future first-round pick, Todd Gurley, and DeAndre Washington of Texas Tech.
From a grading standpoint, Chubb ranked sixth overall in the nation in 2014, despite playing only 407 snaps, and his run grade ranked sixth after five weeks last season before injury struck. He’s averaged a gaudy 7.4 yards per carry in his two years, as he is proficient running between the tackles while showing the vision and speed to get to the outside to create big plays.
Perhaps the best part about Chubb as a runner is his ability to maximize the play even with subpar blocking. He finds the slightest bit of daylight and runs through contact in order to make the most of even the poorly-blocked plays, while showing the ability to make undisciplined edge defenders pay by hitting the edge for big gains. Chubb also showed well in the passing game as a freshman, and while his body type is not exactly the same, his ability to break tackles and his run/pass game versatility remind of former Jacksonville Jaguars running back Maurice Jones-Drew.
The case for Reuben Foster
It took a couple of years for Foster to crack the starting lineup, but the former highly-touted five-star recruit lived up to his potential last season.
His overall grade in 2015 ranked fifth among returning linebackers, as he graded positively in all phases—against the run, in coverage, and as a pass-rusher. The pipeline of strong Alabama linebackers generally raise questions about their athleticism, and while Foster is not a straight-line burner, he changes direction well and, when combined with a good feel for the passing game, was often in good position to break up passes (he tied for the national lead in pass defenses among linebackers, with seven).
In the run game, he tries to slip second-level blocks with his quickness—with mixed success—but he takes on lead blockers and pullers with aggression, often blowing up plays to allow his teammates to make plays. He plays with a controlled style that allowed him to miss only seven tackles all season, though three of them came in the national championship game against Clemson. Foster did damage as a pass-rusher as well, finishing with three sacks, five QB hits, and nine hurries on only 52 rushes, good for a pass-rush productivity that ranks 10th among returning linebackers.
The verdict: Nick Chubb advances
Beyond the 83-yard gain, Chubb is in contention to be one of the best running backs in the nation, and while Foster may achieve similar status among linebackers, the Bulldog gets the nod after a year-and-a-half of excellent play. We saw him step right in for an injured Gurley and carry the load for the Georgia offense in 2014 and he was well on his way to a similar performance early last season. Assuming he returns to good health, Chubb is one of the best all-around backs in the nation and a Heisman candidate.