Browns Position Review – Running Back
The rich tradition of great Cleveland Browns running backs continued in the 2018 season as we watched rookie Nick Chubb rush for what most of will remember as a 1,000-yard season. Chubb is an obvious lock to make the 53-man roster in 2019, but what about the other backs who are currently on the team? Let’s look at the numbers behind the decisions that will made concerning these three men.
Nick Chubb – 5’11” 227 lbs. 24 years old
Chubb rushed for 996 yards in a season in which he didn’t get more than three carries until Week 7 and only had double-digit carries in eight games. His 11 rushes of 20 plus yards were tied for second in the league.
Nick signed a four-year deal worth north of $7 million with $5 million in guarantees. He’s signed through the 2021 season. Don’t expect him to go anywhere before that.
Duke Johnson – 5’9” 210 lbs. 25 years old
Duke Johnson saw his role diminish in 2018, yet the numbers show he is still an effective weapon for any offense. His yards per carry of 5.0 was the best of his career and he was still able to put up very respectable receiving numbers with 47 receptions for 429 yards. The question with Duke will be whether he has fallen out of favor with the new regime or not. He does have a history of being injured and skipping practices. Although that was seldom the case in 2018.
Duke does have a contract that is favorable to the team. His guaranteed money has been paid, leaving a bit of a cap hit in the coming years, but reasonable base salaries of $1.8 M in 2019, $3.6 M in 2020 and $4.65 M in 2021. Johnson would become a UFA in 2022. It is hard to look that far into the future given his usage during the 2018 campaign, but his continued productivity and his 2019 price tag make a great case for Duke Johnson to remain in orange and brown for the upcoming season.
Dontrell Hilliard – 5’11” 202 lbs. 23 years old
As the Browns third back on the current roster, Hilliard had to make the most of his opportunities. He did just that by hauling in nine of 10 targets in playing only 52 snaps with the offense. Hilliard did not have a rushing attempt in his first season as a Brown. He was also effective returning kickoffs, averaging 24 yards on 11 returns.
The Browns have Dontrell signed through the 2019 season. He’s set to make $570,000 this year. His future with the team will depend on what the organization wants out of their third running back. Will they look to upgrade with a back who can get tough yards and spell Nick Chubb or are they comfortable with giving Duke those carries. Hilliard’s small sample size makes him vulnerable, yet there is nothing in his performance or contract that indicates that he shouldn’t be back. This may come down to who is available and how much John Dorsey likes Dontrelle Hilliard.
The Browns are in a great position at back. Nick Chubb is the anchor while Duke Johnson adds tremendous flexibility and Dontrell Hilliard gives the team another productive young player to consider in their plans.
Image: Yahoo Sports