ATHENS – Nick Chubb and Sony Michel are literally best friends and I’m sure they honestly don’t care, but it’s going to be very interesting to see which of the Georgia running backs is picked first in the NFL draft.
They’re also very competitive with each other, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there might be a friendly wager involved.
I’ll say this, though: I expect both of them to be selected by the end of the second day of the April 26-28 draft at least. And, regardless, I predict NFL success for both of these guys.
The general consensus coming out of this season seemed to be that Michel will be the first of the Dogs’ duo to go off the board. The narrative is that Michel is the more versatile of the two backs.
That’s an assertion that Chubb didn’t necessarily disagree with. He told me as much at one of the College Football Playoff media days. He said that Michel was probably a little better catching the ball out of the backfield.
Certainly statistics back that up. At the end of their careers, Chubb had 30 catches for 362 yards and 4 touchdowns while Michel basically doubled him up had 64 receptions for 621 yards and 6 scores.
But it’s not like Michel was a part-time flanker or anything like that. He had nine catches for 96 yards and one touchdown all season, with the lone TD catch not coming until the playoffs.
And Chubb was actually utilized more in that fashion as a freshman while he was sharing time with Todd Gurley. Kind of forgotten from that season was that Chubb had 18 catches for 213 yards and scored twice via the pass that year. So, it could be argued that disparity was as much a function of role as it was anything else.
Which is another thing I always liked about these two guys. I always thought they were at their best when they were interviewed side-by-side. That’s when their personality differences were the most stark. In case you weren’t paying attention, Chubb was the quiet and reserved one while Michel was (slightly) more talkative and certainly more flashy from the standpoint of his alter-ego as rapper flyguy2stackz.
But they were also a mutual admiration society. Michel never begrudged Chubb always being the starter in the rotation. He joked that meant that Chubb had the harder role, coming out Saturday after Saturday against defenses that were jacked to stuff the run and would be selling out like a flea market on run blitzes.
“He’s the one that has to take all that contact,” Michel said earlier this past season. “He was softening them up for me.”
That trend was reflected in their rushing stats each of the last two seasons. Michel averaged more yards per carry than Chubb both years, 5.5 to 5.0 as juniors and 7.9 to 6.4 as seniors.
And that might ultimately tip the ledger in Michel’s favor when it comes to their draft prospects this spring. Without question, Michel arrives at this juncture with less wear-and-tear on his body.
Chubb had 740 carries in his career with the Bulldogs while Michel had 591. And it was Chubb that had to have his left knee rebuilt after that awful incident in Knoxville in 2015. Michel has had his own share of twists, pulls and bruises. And he actually played in one more game (47) than did his roommate in college.
This much is certain: Together they were nearly an unstoppable force for the Bulldogs. They’ll go down as one of the most prolific running back duos of all time. Separately, they finished as the second and third rushers of all time at Georgia, with 4,744 and 3,638 yards, respectively. Between them, they scored 90 touchdowns, with 51 of those in Chubb’s column. Only Herschel Walker, with 52, had more. Wrap your head around that for a minute.
And that’s what NFL executives are going to have to ponder between now draft day. Which one of these guys goes first and how high will they be taken?
That’s anybody’s guess at this point. The theory is that the running back position has been devalued by the proliferation of passing in the NFL game over the years. But backs keep getting drafted in the early rounds, including the first.
LSU’s Leonard Fournette went on the fourth pick last year and made good on it with 1,040 yards rushing and nine touchdowns this season. Christian McCaffrey was also a first-round selection and eight backs were selected in the first three rounds. Included in that bunch was Toledo’s Kareem Hunt, who led the NFL in rushing this year with 1,327 yards and was named rookie of the year.
And we all know what Georgia’s Todd Gurley has done for the Los Angeles Rams. Chubb and Michel’s former running mate had 1,305 yards rushing, 2,093 total yards and 19 touchdowns this past season. He said at the Rose Bowl he expects believes Chubb and Michel will both make great pros.
As for their draft projections, they’re all over the board. Penn State’s Saquon Barkley is the consensus pick to be the first running back selected, followed by LSU’s Derrius Guice.
Chubb and Michel generally are projected a little behind those guys, almost always close together and with no consensus as to which might be selected first. Of the different rankings I perused, Michel’s highest rating among draft-eligible backs was fourth by draftwire.com (which had Chubb fifth). WalterFootball.com had Michel fifth and Chubb sixth, while CBSSports.com have Michel sixth and Chubb seventh.
But then, ESPNInsider had Chubb seventh and Michel ninth and DraftTek.com had Chubb sixth and Michel eighth. Then there was ESPN’s well-known draft expert Todd McShay, who had Chubb fourth and did not include Michel in his Top 10.
Wrote McShay: “Chubb rushed for more than 100 yards in 13 straight games before tearing several knee ligaments (not including his ACL) in 2015. He didn’t have the same explosiveness in 2016 coming off the injury, but he has quick feet for his size (listed at 5-foot-10, 228 pounds). Right now, he projects as a Day 2 pick, but he could move up the boards if he can regain some of that agility.”
If you know Chubb like I do, I’m sure he’s busy “regaining that agility” as we speak. But same for Michel. These two Dogs spent the last four years trying to out-do each other in the weight room and on the practice field and in games.
Maybe one team will take a page out of Georgia’s book and draft both of these guys. Wouldn’t that be something?
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