Hubbard was quietly efficient behind a Panthers offensive line that got into an excellent groove on the ground in the second half. Hubbard averaged 4.9 yards per carry and even showed an evolved ability to impact the pass game (sixth-best yards per route run). He could operate in a similar role in 2023 if free agent acquisition Miles Sanders operates in a similar role to what D'Onta Foreman was for them in 2022, but there's also a chance Sanders eats into his role - specifically on passing downs. Hubbard is a middling dart throw in the final rounds given Sanders' injury history.
Hubbard has given us little to get excited about.
If you’re into a handcuff RB with a low ceiling, then he’s available. But you can almost definitely find better.
What We Learned Last YearHubbard sports very limited upside. He indicated as much with a lackluster rookie season, averaging just 3.6 yards per carry and 7.0 per catch when pressed into expanded duty by Christian McCaffrey injuries. That Panthers team even acquired Ameer Abdullah in-season to shift primary backfield receiving work away from Hubbard.Hubbard’s efficiency improved in Year 2: 4.9 yards per rush and 12.2 per catch. But the same Panthers staff limited his work further.Hubbard averaged just 6.3 carries and 0.9 receptions per game for the season, despite the Panthers trading McCaffrey away after six games.Even in his nine games without McCaffrey, Hubbard averaged just 9.9 carries and 1.4 receptions.D’Onta Foreman beat Hubbard by 5.0 touches per game for the year. And Carolina liked him so much that it let him walk for a modest one-year deal with the Bears in free agency.To be fair: Hubbard also improved his advanced metrics. Among 61 RBs with at least 70 carries:He ranked 21st in Pro Football Focus rushing grade.He tied for just 43rd in yards after contact per carry but did improve vs. 2021.He tied for 38th in elusive rating, up from 47th in 2021.The Panthers’ O-line performed well, ranking ninth in Football Outsiders’ adjusted line yards.
What to Expect in 2023Carolina gave Miles Sanders the biggest contract of any RB who didn’t get the franchise tag. HC Frank Reich has since called him a three-down back.That clearly positions Hubbard as no more than the clear No. 2, and likely well behind Sanders.If the Panthers don’t add a veteran this offseason, that should still position Hubbard for handcuff upside in an offense that improved at QB and replaced its coaching staff with a much more experienced NFL head man.
Hubbard is entering his third NFL season positioned as a change-of-pace/backup option behind new Carolina lead back Miles Sanders. Hubbard made some noise as a rookie with 786 yards and six TDs on 197 touches, but even with Christian McCaffrey traded away early on last season, he took a back seat to D'Onta Foreman and was limited to 637 yards and two TDs on 109 touches. Hubbard, a 2021 fourth-round pick, has no standalone value and, while he could flirt with flex appeal in the event of a Sanders injury, minimal upside. The 24-year-old is barely worth bench consideration.