Position Overview: Running Backs and Fullbacks
This is the second article in a nine part series that will cover the major position groups for the Browns, as well as what the Browns can do to address any needs at the position.
The Browns have one of the most talented running back rooms in the entire NFL, and a major part of the running back core is starter Nick Chubb.
Chubb was drafted with the 33rd pick in the 2018 NFL Draft out of Georgia. He was part of a running back tandem in Georgia with current New England Patriot Sony Michel. When Chubb first joined the Browns, he was the backup behind Carlos Hyde. However, after rushing for 100 yards on just three carries against the Raiders, Chubb became the number one back. He would end up just falling short of 1000 rushing yards on the season, and he had his best game when he torched the Atlanta Falcons for 176 yards, including a franchise record 92 yard touchdown.
In 2019, Chubb was the starter for the entire season, and he showed that he is the best running back in the 2018 class. He rushed for almost 1500 yards, good for the second most in the entire league, and averaged over five yards a carry for the second straight year, which only also was done by Matt Breida. Chubb showed that he has solid ball carrier moves, but that he also has the power to run through people just as easily as he runs around them. Chubb isn’t a great weapon in the passing game, but if he could improve his receiving ability, he will be the best running back in the league for years to come.
In the 2019 offseason, the Browns signed Kareem Hunt. Hunt, who is from Cleveland, and played his college ball at Toledo, was drafted in the third round by the Chiefs. He had a great first season in Kansas City, leading the entire league in rushing yards, and getting named to the Pro Bowl. He was having a great season statistically, but after week eleven, a video surfaced that showed Hunt physically assaulting a woman in an elevator. He was released immediately by the Chiefs.
The Browns chose to add Hunt in February and he was suspended for the first eight games without pay. In Hunt’s first game with the Browns he had almost 75 net yards, and threw key blocks for Nick Chubb in a win over the Bills. Over the eight games that he played, he had 179 yards on the ground, but he was very effective in the air, having 285 receiving yards, which was good for third on the team. The Browns re-signed Hunt to a one-year deal, and he will be the second string back for the Browns in 2020.
The Browns’ third running back is Dontrell Hilliard. Hilliard was an undrafted free agent out of Tulane, where he was second-team all AAC in his senior year. Hilliard started out his career on the practice squad, but after the aforementioned Carlos Hyde trade he was promoted to the 53 man roster. In 2018, he had over 100 receiving yards. He also returned eleven kicks for 264 yards. In 2019, he scored on the first carry of his career against the Titans. He also showed a flash as a kick returner, taking the opening kickoff 72 yards to set up a touchdown for the Browns. Hilliard is a third option, though he will see most of his time on special teams in 2020.
The Browns added two new fullbacks in the offseason. Johnny Stanton, who the Browns signed after he was released by the Minnesota Vikings, started out as a quarterback in college. He began his collegiate career at Nebraska, before finishing at UNLV. While he was at UNLV, Stanton converted to tight end. When he got to Minnesota, he was told that he needed to change positions to fullback. Stanton was injured in his second preseason game, and spent time on the Vikings practice squad before being released. He was signed by the XFL’s Los Angeles Wildcats. The Browns picked him up in January 2020.
The other fullback the Browns acquired was Andy Janovich. The Browns traded a seventh round pick to Denver in exchange for Janovich. He was actually on the same Nebraska team as Stanton was, though he was a fullback on that team. He won the starting job as a rookie in 2016, and scored on his first career carry. He was placed on injured reserve after an ankle surgery. In 2019, he signed a three year, 5.7 million dollar extension with the Broncos. However in week eleven, he suffered an elbow injury and was ruled out for the year.
The Browns will likely only carry one fullback, so it will be a competition for the starting job. Given that Stanton and Janovich have a history of injury, the other player might find a spot on the practice squad.
The Browns have some of the best running backs in the league, and if the fullbacks can play well, the Browns could have the best rushing offense in the league.