10/25 Update: As luck would have it, it was a Christian McCaffrey trade to San Francisco, not an injury, that opened the door for Chuba Hubbard and D’Onta Foreman. In their first game in a post-CMC world, Carolina started Hubbard in the backfield, who out-snapped Foreman 22-14 and out-carried him 8-4 through three quarters, including taking the majority of 3rd down snaps. Hubbard suffered a minor ankle injury that kept him out of the fourth quarter and resulted in 11 rushes for 48 yards in the fourth for Foreman. Foreman also broke a 60-yard run in the third quarter that represented over half his rushing yards for the day.
Fantasy-wise, the pair finished pretty evenly on the day:
Foreman: 118 yards rushing, two receptions for 27 yards; 16.5 PPR points
Hubbard: 63 yards rushing, 1 TD, two receptions for 10 yards; 15.3 PPR points
Based on usage before Hubbard’s injury (which shouldn’t cause him to miss any time), he may be the safer waiver option of the two. But if Foreman outperforms him (as we anticipated below), he could move into the lead-back role before the season’s end.
If your league-mates have at least a few neurons firing in their brains, you know that Christian McCaffrey will be one of the first few picks of 2022 fantasy football drafts. He’s one of the few true 1K rushing/1K receiving threats in the league and is understandably the focal point of Carolina’s offense under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo.
But at the same time, you all are also aware that CMC has a legitimate injury history and has missed just under 70% of his team’s games since 2021 (maybe you didn’t know the exact number on that last part — but that’s why we’re here).
With all of this in mind, CMC’s handcuff should be a relatively intriguing late-round selection. But who will that be? Chuba Hubbard showed flashes last year in place of McCaffrey, including a 100-yard rushing performance in Week 5, but left something to be desired in terms of consistency. D’Onta Foreman, meanwhile, is coming off a strong end to 2021 as the RB19 from Weeks 12 to 18 while filling in for Derrick Henry, all while sharing touches with Dontrelle Hilliard.
Was Foreman brought in specifically to help this team survive another injury-riddled season from CMC? And what’s the deal if McCaffrey manages to stay healthy?
KEEPING CMC FRESH
Considering McCaffrey’s lack of availability the past couple of seasons, you’d think Hubbard and Foreman would be in the picture to limit his touches and keep him fresh for the entire season. And while this is certainly true to some extent, recent comments from head coach Matt Rhule paint another picture.
“I’m not spending my time worrying about, ‘hey, will Christian get hurt?’ … We are thinking about Christian in one way only — and that’s attack,” Rule said. “He plays a high-contact, high-percentage-of-injury position… We’re going to put him out there and play him. We want to have all of our best players for as long as possible.”
Success in fantasy football sometimes requires a PhD in “coachspeak,” but the takeaways from these comments are clear — CMC will be the guy as long as he’s on the field, and will likely be closer to the ~30 touches per game he was averaging pre-injury last year than the 17 touches per game he averaged from Weeks 9-12 before being shut down for the remainder of the season.
If McCaffrey does stay on the field for 17 games, neither Hubbard nor Foreman boast a ton of standalone value as backups. Although it’s a reach, if there’s one knock on McCaffrey, it’s his size, and that coupled with trying to keep him fresh and healthy could result in some goal-line work being pushed elsewhere — and that’s where we’d expect Foreman to step in. Foreman has just five career rushing touchdowns, but three are from within five yards of the goal line. And at 235 pounds, he’s one of the beefier backs in the league — a stark contrast from CMC who stands at 5’11” and 205 lbs.
Foreman and Hubbard have split underwhelming reps with the first team throughout the preseason so far while McCaffrey hasn’t — and won’t — seen any action until Week 1. It remains to be seen if either back can rise above the other and solidify the backup role before the season starts.
PLANNING FOR THE WORST
If McCaffrey is bit by the injury bug again, Foreman is still the safer option of the 2. Hubbard actually averaged about 1 FPPG more than Foreman last season, but Hubbard played a more prominent role in his offense and did much less with the opportunities.
Hubbard ranked 95th in Fantasy Points over Expectation and averaged just 3.6 yards per carry. Those stats in one word: inefficient. Foreman, meanwhile, took advantage of the reps he did get, finishing the year with 4.3 YPC and nearly doubling Hubbard’s yards per reception figure as well (7 for Hubbard vs 13.7 for Foreman). Foreman should not only get most early-down work in place of CMC but he could get the opportunity to fill his role completely as a dual-threat back.
As a comp to gauge Foreman’s handcuff potential, look no further than Mike Davis‘ work in the same role after CMC went down in 2020. Davis averaged over 18 touches per game — pacing out to 310 over a 17-game season — and averaged a shade under 15.5 FPPG as the lead back, singlehandedly keeping a slew of CMC owners afloat down the stretch. If Foreman can come even close to replicating Davis’ 2020 success in the event of a CMC injury, he’s worth taking a look at.
While some teams may pivot to a pass-heavy attack if their star RB misses time, Carolina doesn’t boast the league’s best QB situation. However, we know Baker Mayfield fared much better in Cleveland when he had a strong run game to fall back on. So, if you’re skeptical about McCaffrey’s ability to stay on the field, or if you think Carolina might finally learn their lesson about overusing their star back, D’Onta Foreman may be worth a late-round flier.
The Wolf favors Foreman, slotting him at RB68 and Hubbard at RB86 on his most recent 2022 Fantasy Big Board.