While it didn’t come until Round 3, Hubbard was someone draft experts loved going into the draft, so much that many websites had him projected as first or second-round prospect. The Zone Coverage Big Board, which measures the draft rankings of every expert, had Hubbard ranked as the 47th-best prospect, so the Bengals appear to have gotten a major steal landing him with the 77th pick.
But what do NFL personnel think about Hubbard?
Every year, Bob McGinn speaks to scouts, personnel directors, NFL executives and coaches about the top crop of talent in the NFL Draft. That allows him to get some great breakdowns of how the NFL views the top prospects in said year’s draft class.
In regards to Hubbard, he did earn some praise, but not everyone is convinced he’s a starting-caliber player.
5. SAM HUBBARD, Ohio State (Round 2 grade): High-school safety and lacrosse player converted to DE in 2014 redshirt season. “Good football player,” said one scout. “He’s a base left end who I think could play outside backer in a 3-4. His feet are good in space. He just doesn’t have long speed. He’s really, really smart. Knows how to use his hands. Good effort guy. He never goes to one Pro Bowl but he’ll be a really good player and play 10, 12 years.”
“With him, what you see is what you get,” another scout said. “He was smart to come out because next year people would compare him to (Nick) Bosa and say this guy’s not very good. Best as an edge rusher with good take-off. Probably best as an outside linebacker in a 3-4. He does drop easily. Very disciplined player. Coaches are going to like this player because he’s going to do exactly what they tell him to do. Fourth round.” Wonderlic of 35 led edge rushers. Arms were 33 1/8. “Just more of a try-hard type guy,” said a third scout. “Not an elite talent. More of a backup type player.”
Hubbard did get a Round 2 grade overall, and in terms of all the edge defenders, he was ranked fifth in McGinn’s ranking of the defensive end prospects.
In the edge position poll, 14 scouts listed their seven top prospects, with a first-place vote worth 7 points, a second-place vote worth 6 and so forth.
Chubb, a unanimous choice, received the maximum total of 98 points. Others finishing in double digits were Davenport (79), Boston College’s Harold Landry (58), Key (44), Ohio State’s Sam Hubbard (32), Georgia’s Lorenzo Carter (20) and Rutgers’ Kemoko Turay (15).
What’s interesting is LSU’s Arden Key was ranked ahead of Hubbard, yet the Bengals picked Hubbard with the former still on the board. The Raiders wound up picking Key with the 87th pick.
However, Key has a lot more character concerns and off-field issues he’s battled through, so that may have been what caused him to be fall below Hubbard on the Bengals’ big board.