Draft steal, Browns star Nick Chubb lands on a Class of '22 Hall of Famer's fantasy team

Steve Doerschuk
The Repository

Richard Seymour, Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2022, is an expert on the worst of the Cleveland Browns' expansion-era drafting — and the best.

Let's start with the best, Nick Chubb, a No. 35 overall draft pick in 2018 who has turned into one of the NFL's most valuable players. Seymour follows Chubb with particular interest since they both played college football at Georgia.

The defensive line great studies Chubb with a trained eye. Seymour spent the last four of his 12 NFL seasons with the Oakland Raiders, whose owner, Al Davis, viewed Seymour as future general manager material.

Early in 2011, Davis signed Seymour to a contract extension making him the league's top-paid defensive player. Davis died late that year, and Seymour never got serious about working long hours as a personnel man. He watches the league closely, though, and had this to say about Chubb during a recent swing through Canton:

Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb (24) runs for a first down as Las Vegas Raiders defensive back Keisean Nixon (22) reaches for him during the second half of an NFL football game, Monday, Dec. 20, 2021, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/David Richard)

"He has an old-school, workman style of running. He's a hard-nosed. He doesn't celebrate after plays. He's a true pro.

"He's fast. He's strong. He can make the first tackler miss."

According to Pro Football Reference, Chubb's 4,816 rushing yards are tops among backs who have been in the NFL four seasons or less. He ranks third all-time among running backs in yards per carry at 5.3, behind Marion Motley (5.7) and Jamaal Charles (5.4), and ahead of Jim Brown (5.2). Motley's figure includes yards gained in the AAFC from 1946-49, before he and the Browns jumped to the NFL in 1950.

"Chubb has all the ingredients to be one of the greats," Seymour said. "Even when he was at Georgia, I thought he should have had more playing time when he was behind Todd Gurley. Gurley was a year or two older, and he was the clear guy, but Chubb was coming on."

Georgia tailback Nick Chubb scores a touchdown in the Rose Bowl, Jan. 1, 2018 in Pasadena, Calif.
Gary McCullough --1/1/14-- Georgia's Todd Gurley (3) with a 25-yard catch and run touchdown at the beginning of the fourth quarter of the 2014 Gator Bowl, Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Georgia Bulldogs at EverBank Field on Wednesday, January 1, 2013 in Jacksonville, FL. Nebraska won 24-19.   (The Florida Times-Union, Gary McCullough)

Chubb was a true freshman in 2014 when, in the fourth game of Georgia's season, a 35-32 win over Tennessee, he ran 11 times and caught one pass, which went for a 20-yard touchdown. Gurley ran 28 times for 208 yards.

A week later against Vanderbilt, Gurley made 25 carries to Chubb's eight. Then, everything changed when Gurley was suspended for the next four games. During Gurley's four games away, Chubb rushed 102 times for 671 yards.

These years later, the Browns need Chubb to build on his NFL success at a career stage when Gurley went backward.

Gurley entered the 2015 draft, got picked 10th overall by the Rams, and became NFL Offensive Player of the Year in 2017. Gurley had a productive fourth NFL season in 2018 but faded in 2019, after which the Rams released him. 

Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley stiff arms Green Bay Packers free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix on a fourth quarter run at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Oct. 28, 2018. The Rams won the game, 29-27.

Gurley landed in Atlanta, where, across his last five games in 2020, he averaged 2.4 yards on 28 carries. At age 26, he went unsigned during the 2021 free agency period.

Chubb, who turned 26 in December, enters his fifth season with the Browns, working on a contract that has a potential out after the 2023 season.

Seymour, incidentally, was traveling through Canton with fellow Class of 2022 Hall of Famer LeRoy Butler, another Chubb fan.

"I have him on my fantasy team," Butler said.

Chubb arguably is the best draft value the Browns have secured in their expansion era.

Seymour came out of Georgia in the early stages of the era, when the Browns made two high draft picks that didn't work out.

With the first overall pick of the 2000 draft, they took Penn State defensive end Courtney Brown, who played only 47 games for the Browns amid injury troubles.

Tony Boselli, a Class of 2022 Hall of Famer who played left tackle for Jacksonville, which was in the same division as Cleveland in 2000, remembers Brown.

"He had a chance to be a really good player," Boselli said during his own visit to Canton earlier this month. "He was longer and taller and was probably more of a left end than a right end, because he was really good against the run and he was a powerful human being.

"When we faced him his rookie year, he was dang good. Sometimes guys get hurt and things don't work out."

Tony Boselli speaks to the media at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton on Monday, March 7, 2022. Boselli is a member of the Class of 2022.

A year after taking Brown at No. 1, new Browns head coach Butch Davis made Gerard Warren the No. 3 overall pick of the 2001 draft. After four seasons, the Browns traded Warren to Denver for a fourth-round pick.

In retrospect, Davis should have taken a different defensive lineman, Seymour, who instead went to New England at No. 6. He helped the Patriots win Super Bowls in the 2001, 2003 and 2004 seasons. 

Recalling the 2001 draft, Seymour said:

"Arizona was at No. 2. The Browns were at No. 3. Both of them were kind of saying, 'Hey, we're gonna get ya.' I thought it was going to be either Arizona or Cleveland."

Richard Seymour speaks to the media at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton on Monday, March 14, 2022. Seymour is a member of the Class of 2022.

That was the draft in which Michael Vick went first overall to Atlanta. The Cardinals then took an offensive lineman, Leonard Davis. The next four picks were Warren to the Browns, defensive lineman Justin Smith to the Bengals, running back LaDainian Tomlinson to the Chargers, and Seymour to the Patriots.

"I'm happy I went sixth," said Seymour, breaking into a laugh.

Seymour started in a Super Bowl win as a 2001 rookie. He made first-team All-Pro on New England teams that won the Super Bowls capping the 2003 and '04 seasons. 

He was in his 11th year in the league when he made second-team All-Pro with the Raiders in 2011. Gerard Warren never made a Pro Bowl, but he did wind up as a teammate of Seymour in 2009, when the latter jumped to the Raiders.

Reach Steve at steve.doerschuk@cantonrep.com

On Twitter: @sdoerschukREP