As if the Carolina Panthers didn't have enough open-field juice in their offensive backfield with Christian McCaffrey, the club added a home-run hitter Saturday in selecting Oklahoma State running back Chuba Hubbard in the fourth round of the 2021 NFL Draft with overall pick No. 126.
What Hubbard brings to the NFL foremost is speed -- a world-class sprinter as a teenager, he once clocked the world's fourth-fastest time in his age group in the 100-meter dash (10.60 seconds) at the IAAF World Youth Championships in 2015.
Thanks largely to that documented speed, Hubbard, a native of Canada, overcame the difficulty Canadian high school football players have drawing scholarship offers in the United States.
Oklahoma State redshirted Hubbard in 2017 to help him adjust from Canadian competition to major college football, and just two years later, he exploded to lead the nation in rushing yards with 2,094 as a sophomore in 2019. Hubbard (6-0, 210 pounds) averaged 6.4 yards per carry and scored 21 touchdowns that year, his only healthy season as a full-time starter at OSU.
Hubbard is ideally suited for a zone-blocking run scheme, according to NFL Media draft analyst Lance Zierlein. His 40-yard dash time at Oklahoma State's pro day was fast at 4.48 and 4.50, but not in the range of the expectations created by his stellar track background.
Last year as a junior, a nagging ankle injury prevented him from practicing full-speed during game weeks, and hampered him on game days as well, though he still managed 625 yards on 133 carries.
As it turns out, Panthers coach Matt Rhule wasn't the only one who had a say in drafting Hubbard.
On the initial call informing Hubbard he was the newest Panther, Rhule disclosed a text message he received from his wife Julie that requested his selection.
"About ten minutes ago my wife texted me and said, 'please take Chuba Hubbard,'" explained Rhule, who's seen Hubbard plenty as the former Baylor coach. "So, she speaks, it happens. We're excited to have you, man."
By virtue of the Rhule's, Hubbard now enters Carolina with the opportunity of learning under one of the most dynamic RBs in the league and could be the added element that authorizes Carolina's backfield as the NFL's fastest.