In recent years, The Ohio State University has become something of a pipeline for defensive line talent in the NFL, with Joey Bosa the latest d-lineman to go from Buckeyes star to Pro Bowler.
No one’s going to confuse him with Bosa (or his younger brother Nick, for that matter), but after piling up 42 total tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks in 2017 the top edge-rusher from Columbus in this year’s class is Sam Hubbard.
Hubbard’s numbers aren’t eye-popping, but it’s worth pointing out that playing on an absolutely loaded line at Ohio State that included Nick Bosa and fellow 2018 prospect Jalyn Holmes meant that Hubbard’s snaps could be scaled back in an effort to keep him fresh.
As Lance Zierlein reported for NFL.com, at least one NFC Scouting Director believes that Hubbard will be just fine with a bigger workload—provided he adds a little bulk as a pro. “I think he’s going to end up being a good pro,” the scout said. “He plays hard all the time. He just needs to add a little more muscle and find a go-to move that he can win with as a rusher and he’ll be a consistent starter for years.”
Hubbard didn’t have a great showing at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine, but he didn’t have a bad one, either. As a matter of fact, Alistair Corp of SB Nation believes that Hubbard’s excellent time in the three-cone drill bodes well for his NFL prospects.
“Hubbard has the traits and athletic profile of a successful, three-down EDGE in the NFL,” Corp said. “An elite three cone score like Hubbard’s (97th percentile) is a common trait in some of the game’s best EDGEs. As the NFL Draft approaches, there should be question marks surrounding his play against the run, as well how far along he is as a pass rusher. With an excellent three cone and playing at a position of need, Hubbard should be a name to watch on the draft’s second day.”
Zierlein agrees (to a point), pointing to Hubbard as a player with a high floor but perhaps not the highest of ceilings. “Hubbard will pass the eyeball test with his height, weight, and build, but he’s missing the plus athleticism to take him over the top as a pass rusher,” he wrote. “His tape is solid, but nothing jumps off the screen. Teams looking for a big-time edge rusher won’t get too excited by him, but he will appeal to defensive coordinators looking for guys with size and motor to plug into a blitz-heavy, twist-happy defense. Hubbard could become an early starter as a strong-side defensive end for a 4-3 defense.”
The general consensus appears to be that Hubbard will be selected fairly early on the second day of the 2018 NFL Draft. But there are those who think Hubbard could slide into the back of Round 1, including Larry Holder of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, who slotted Hubbard to the Saints with the 27th overall pick.
“The Saints have smartly re-signed veteran Alex Okafor,” Holder said. “Still, it’s uncertain when Okafor will be completely healthy. That’s why it still makes sense to take Hubbard in this spot. The Ohio State product seems like he can play as a three-down defensive end in the NFL at 6-foot-5 and 265 pounds. I debated Boston College edge rusher Harold Landry at this spot. I’m assuming Landry will be off the board, though. And even though a team can afford to gamble a little bit at No. 27, I’m not willing to take a chance on LSU’s Arden Key. I feel like I know what I’m getting with Hubbard.”
Bleacher Report NFL Draft Lead Writer Matt Miller thinks Hubbard could go even sooner than that, mocking Hubbard to the Tennessee Titans at No. 25. “Maybe it’s too easy to connect new head coach Mike Vrabel and his Ohio State roots to Sam Hubbard,” Miller said, “but the former Buckeye would be a great fit in this defense. He’s also a good value at pick No. 25 overall. Hubbard was a rock-solid right defensive end for Ohio State and tested well at the combine. Well enough, at 6’5 ⅜” and 270 pounds, to post the best three-cone time (6.84 seconds) of any edge-rusher. With his size, agility, strength and football IQ, it’s easy to see his being a building block for Vrabel in Tennessee.”
That last scenario would be an example of a worst-case scenario from an IDP perspective, in that a landing spot like Tennessee could mean positional classification as an outside linebacker. However, in my opinion that’s fairly unlikely—Hubbard’s got a great motor and more than a little skill, but his future probably lies in playing with his hand in the dirt.
Sadly, even in a place like New Orleans it’s also unlikely that Hubbard’s going to have significant fantasy value—especially early on. This isn’t to say he won’t ever have it—Hubbard isn’t going to be the sack threat a guy like Bosa is, but he has the potential to develop into a solid two-way end capable of IDP DL2 production.
However, that’s all but surely going to take some time, and unless quite a few dominoes fall just so between now and IDP drafts Hubbard’s career will kick off with status as a late pick in deeper fantasy leagues as a flier with some upside.