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There is plenty of optimism surrounding Chuba Hubbard, who was selected by the Carolina Panthers in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft.

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A talented running back with a tremendous amount of upside gains more in the way of excitement than most other positions and head coach Matt Rhule already knows what the player is capable of after he torched his Baylor Bears in college at Oklahoma State.

Hubbard won’t be challenging star back Christian McCaffrey for a starting job anytime soon, if ever. But there is nothing to suggest that he cannot become an important member of the rotation right from the outset.

The injury problems suffered by McCaffrey in 2020 are well documented and something the Panthers will be keen to avoid if they want to progress next season. Keeping their best offensive weapon fresh and firing on all Red Reggie Bonnafon Jersey, cylinders is absolutely pivotal to their chances and Hubbard has a big role to play in this..

Hubbard has to make a smooth transition from college to the pros. But first-year running backs do tend to show more than others that get a culture shock against bigger, more dominant opposition within positional groups that tend to expose their initial flaws.

Carolina lost Mike Davis to the Atlanta Falcons in free agency, which was to be expected after the veteran did so well in McCaffrey’s absence last season. Hubbard has some big shoes to fill if he does get the primary backup gig, although players like Rodney Smith, Reggie Bonnafon, and Trenton Cannon will also hold out hope of securing the spot.

Chuba Hubbard could have a big role for the Carolina Panthers in 2021.
The rookie is in the driving seat for the belief Rhule has in him alone.

But what we see from Hubbard during the preseason will go a long way to determining just what we can expect from the player when competitive action gets underway.

Giving McCaffrey less of a load would be a wise move at this juncture. The former Stanford sensation has shouldered a heavy burden since entering the league and it appeared to catch up with him in a big way with ankle, shoulder, and quad problems that restricted him to just three games last season.

Providing Hubbard shows enough in warmup contests and training camp, then Carolina could use him in a multitude of ways.

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McCaffrey himself accumulated 117 carries during his rookie year in 2017. Somewhere in this region is not out of the question where Hubbard is concerned, with the ceiling probably coming at around 130 considering the weapons available in the passing game.

That is a lot of pressure to put on Hubbard.

However, this is why the Panthers drafted him and it is a challenge the player is sure to relish.

He might end up getting fewer carries than this, in all honesty.

Hubbard does have some limitations and his ability in the passing game also needs some work. But in terms of raw athleticism and football IQ, it’s easy to conclude why he is so respected within the organization.

NEXT: 3 reasons the Carolina Panthers could surpass preseason expectations in 2021
Carolina had a phenomenal draft – at least on paper – and Hubbard could be yet another diamond in the rough for the team to make the most out of. If he hits the ground running, there will be nobody happier than McCaffrey.

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