Fantasy outlook for Panthers RB
Week 13 is quickly approaching, and with it comes a critical stretch where fantasy managers have only a few weeks left to solidify their spot in the fantasy football playoffs. Although the Carolina Panthers have a bye this week, fantasy managers will be looking at Chuba Hubbard for the rest of the season following the injury to Christian McCaffrey. Should fantasy football managers plan ahead and place a waiver wire claim on Hubbard as a potential RB2, or will he disappoint down the stretch?
Christian McCaffrey is out for the remainder of the year
2022 fantasy football drafts will look very different compared to ones that took place just a few months ago. If you drafted an RB in the first round, odds are you have not had a good time this year. If you had the 1.01, you are really not enjoying this season, and things just got worse.
On Sunday, McCaffrey suffered an ankle injury and was unable to return for the second half of Week 12. Shortly after the game, news broke the Panthers were placing him on injured reserve.
McCaffrey was sidelined for five games earlier in the season due to a hamstring injury, and he will finish another season on the sidelines due to health issues. Appearing in seven games, CMC rushed 99 times for 442 yards and a touchdown while hauling in 37 of 41 targets for 343 yards and a score.
Suffice it to say, McCaffrey will not be the consensus 1.01 next season. That will be Jonathan Taylor, but we’ll cross that bridge later.
Chuba Hubbard will take over No. 1 RB duties for the Panthers moving forward
Is anyone else getting that feeling of déjà vu right now? Here we are again, with Hubbard set to take on a prominent role following an injury to McCaffrey. While I am sure head coach Matt Rhule didn’t plan on using Hubbard as much as he has this season, it sure seems fortuitous they selected him in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft.
In his five starts in relief of McCaffrey (Weeks 4 through 8), Hubbard averaged 17.8 carries, 65.8 yards, and 0.4 TDs per game while adding 2.6 receptions and 17.6 yards per contest. Over that stretch, Hubbard was the RB19 in PPR formats. With all this being said, Hubbard no longer has a monopoly on Carolina’s backfield as he once did.
Ameer Abdullah has seen increased reps in recent weeks
When the news came out regarding McCaffrey’s ankle injury, all eyes focused on Hubbard, and rightfully so. He was the player who took the lead back role earlier in the season. However, in recent weeks, Ameer Abdullah has pushed him for both snaps and touches.
Over the last four games, Abdullah has out-touched Hubbard 23 to 15. In Week 11, Hubbard played on just 1 offensive snap, and in Week 12, Abdullah played 49% of the snaps compared to Hubbard’s 20%.
While his work on the ground is uninspiring (34 total yards in four games), Abdullah’s receiving work is intriguing. In three of his last four games, he has seen at least 4 targets while recording 20 yards or more in each outing.
Sure, that is not a fantasy-relevant performance and barely places Abdullah on our radar. But he’s taking away reps from Hubbard and limits the rookie’s upside, as targets are far more valuable compared to runs. Rush attempts are worth 0.58 fantasy points on average, while a target is worth an average of 1.61 fantasy points.
Hubbard is a worthy fantasy waiver wire claim but has a difficult road ahead
This is the time of year to look ahead. Load your rosters with as much upside as possible. Anytime you can add a team’s No. 1 running back, especially this late in the season, you have to do it. With that said, this doesn’t mean you have to start those players.
Hubbard has RB2 upside, as we have seen already this season. But when you look at his upcoming schedule, it’s a gauntlet of some of the most formidable rush defenses in the NFL. After the bye week, the Panthers host the Atlanta Falcons, which we love to see. They’re No. 26 in fantasy points allowed, and Hubbard will be an RB2 in rankings. But after that, things go downhill.
In Week 15, Carolina is on the road against the Buffalo Bills (No. 4 vs. RBs). Then, they have games against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (No. 1 in yards allowed) and New Orleans Saints (No. 1 in points allowed) before closing out the season by facing the Bucs again.
So during your playoff run, Hubbard has the toughest schedule of any running back in the NFL. If it were McCaffrey, you’d trust him — but Hubbard is not CMC. Among Hubbard’s next five games, you’d feel comfortable starting him in Week 13. That’s it. Pick him up off the waiver wire and use him next week, but I would be quick to place him back on the bench for the remainder of the year.