The Bengals have big expectations for third-round rookie defensive end Sam Hubbard.
Hubbard, who played collegiately with the Ohio State Buckeyes, was regarded as one of the top edge defenders in the 2018 NFL Draft. Weighing in at 6’5”, 265 pounds, Hubbard first gained a starting role at OSU in 2016, when he registered 46 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 3.5 sacks and two pass break-ups.
Last season, Hubbard recorded 42 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss, 7 sacks, and 2 forced fumbles. He also wasn’t someone that just racked up stats against cupcake teams. His best game of the year was a 2.5-sack, 3.5-tackle-for-loss performance against USC in the Rose Bowl. He also had 2.5 sacks at Michigan.
Hubbard was someone draft experts loved, 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 overall selection.
It just so happens Marvin Lewis has been quite impressed with what he’s seen from the former Buckeye, too.
“He has been way ahead of the curve,” Lewis told WCPO. “We’re just excited about that. He’s going to really complement and add to our football team right away. I’m just excited because he’s probably out here a little mature beyond his years right now.”
The praise didn’t stop there. Lewis even said Hubbard will have a significant role early in his rookie season.
“He’ll be part of our rotation in the defensive line group,” Lewis said. “That’s what I see for him looking into the future, very early right away this year. That’s what we were looking for when we picked him.”
It’s no secret that Lewis has been one of, if not the strictest coach in the NFL in regards to playing rookies. So for him to go out of his way to say Hubbard will have a role on the team this year is interesting. Lewis always praises rookies but saying they’ll actually play is another thing entirely.
It also helps that the Bengals currently have two contract-year starters on the edge in Michael Johnson and Carlos Dunlap. There’s a very good chance one of them is gone next year, and it’s not out of the question that both will be playing with new teams in 2019.
That’s why it’s crucial for the Bengals to find a defensive end who can step up and be ready for a starting role as early as 2019. If Hubbard is that guy, then getting him as many reps as possible this year will be critical. Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson are both in that conversation, too and Willis is expected to start this year along with Dunlap. Lawson will surely have a big role, too, after a terrific rookie year. Lawson’s rookie year may actually be part of the reason why Lewis is ready to let guys like Hubbard play right away, too.
It already sounds like Lewis is planning for Hubbard to play early on in 2018, and that should be a good thing for the Bengals.