Nick Chubb Explosion, Jerome Ford to Surprise? 2023 Fantasy Football Outlook of the Browns New-Look Backfield

Kareem Hunt is gone and touches are up for grabs in Cleveland.

Year after year, the Cleveland Browns continue to have one of the most dynamic and productive rushing attacks in the NFL. However, things are set to look drastically different in 2023 with the departure of Kareem Hunt. At the time of publication, Hunt remains a free agent, and resigning with the Browns is not out of the question. For the sake of this article, we’ll assume the Browns will feature Nick Chubb and Jerome Ford at running back this season.

As I mentioned, the Browns have a phenomenal run game. In 2022 the team averaged 146.5 rushing yards per game, placing them sixth in the NFL. PFF also grades their ground game as the third-best in the league and gives them the eighth-best run-blocking grade. Additionally, the Browns provide their running backs with plenty of opportunity. Last season, the Browns ran the ball at the eighth-highest rate in the league, handing the ball off on 47.67 percent of plays.

NICK CHUBB OUTLOOK

Nick Chubb has been a fantasy football mainstay for the last handful of years. Over the last few years, Chubb has finished as the RB5 (2022), RB11 (2021), RB9 (2020), and RB7(2019) in PPR formats. He achieved this while missing three games in 2021 and four in 2020.

There is no question of Chubb’s ability as a ball carrier, as Chubb is widely considered one of the league’s best tailbacks. Chubb’s production on the field backs up these opinions. In each of his five NFL seasons, Chubb has averaged five yards per carry or better. To put this into perspective, future Hall of Fame running back Adrian Peterson achieved this mark only twice in his career. Chubb will continue to be one of the league’s best runners so there is little use discussing his rushing ability. If he remains healthy, Chubb will no doubt finish the year with 250-plus carries, 1000-plus yards, and at least 10 TDs. With Hunt no longer in the picture, Chubb will be on the field more often and there’s potential for astronomical production.

RECEIVING WORK

The consistent knock on Chubb is that he rarely catches passes — which is why he’s typically a player we advise to “sell high” during the season, based on our xFP model. Across his five-year career with the Browns, Chubb has averaged 1.6 receptions per game and 13.2 receiving yards per game. These numbers are by no means impressive. But, there might be some untapped potential in the passing game for the workhorse. Chubb produced 8.9 yards per reception, sixth-best among RBs. Chubb with room to work is also a sight to see. In 2022, Chubb led the league in evaded tackles and was fourth in juke rate.

It’s difficult to project what role Chubb will take in the passing game in 2023. However, I believe Chubb will take a big step forward this year with Hunt out of the picture. Hunt leaves behind 44 vacated targets and it isn’t clear where these will be headed. One thing is for certain, Chubb will be seeing more targets than in previous seasons. Chubb is a monster with the ball in his hands and it will be exciting to see what he can do with an increased role in the passing game.

JEROME FORD OUTLOOK

Jerome Ford is a SNEAKY 2023 Fantasy Football SLEEPER and Dynasty STASH

There is lots of intrigue surrounding Jerome Ford because we simply don’t know where he fits in. As of now, Ford slots in as the second running back in the Browns’ offense. What’s exciting is that the Browns have always had solid production from their RB2. During his time in Cleveland, Kareem Hunt consistently had quality fantasy performances. But, it’s not just Hunt who had success as an RB2 in Cleveland. In 2021, D’Ernest Johnson finished as an RB1 in three separate weeks! An offense run by Kevin Stefanski is undoubtedly capable of supporting multiple running backs and Ford will benefit from that this year.

There is certainly a role to be filled in the Browns’ offense. But, what does Ford bring to the table? Ford was selected in the fifth round of the 2022 NFL Draft out of Cincinnati. Ford hardly saw the field with the Browns in 2022, so we must look back to his college days.

After transferring from Alabama, Ford was a key piece of Cincinnati’s run to the College Football Playoff in 2021 and put together some impressive highlights. Ford showed breakaway speed and routinely left players in the dust, creating big plays for the Bearcats. His speed allows him to blow by defenders and evade tackles when catching check-downs as well. One area for concern in Ford’s game is his blocking ability. Throughout his college career, he regularly got knocked off his feet, leading to pressures and sacks for Desmond Ridder.

In 2023, Ford will likely serve as a change of pace back and hopefully create some explosive plays. I believe his role in the passing game will largely depend on whether or not his blocking ability improves. As of now, the plan seems to be that Ford will take on whatever action Chubb doesn’t take.

THE FINAL TAKE

Chubb will continue to be the impressive back that we all know and love. However, I think he has overall RB1 ceiling with an increased chance of receiving work. It’s also possible for Chubb to finish the year with well over 15 touchdowns. Hunt is leaving behind 29 red zone touches and I have a hard time seeing those looks going to a running back other than Chubb. He currently has an ADP of 16 (RB7) in PPR formats and is ranked 14th overall by The Wolf. I am very comfortable taking Chubb in this range and potentially a bit earlier. The sky is the limit and I’m excited to see what he does in 2023.

Ford’s fantasy outlook still has more questions than answers. However, Ford is an exciting talent and the RB2 job is his to lose. As of now, Ford’s ADP is 200 (RB63). He’s essentially going undrafted in most leagues. I think Ford’s talent and opportunity certainly create a path to where he has an impact for both the Browns and in fantasy leagues. If you are looking for a late-round flier to finish out your draft, give Jerome Ford a serious look. Not to mention, he will have serious upside as a handcuff as the season goes on.

Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
LinkedIn

Related Posts