#77 Bengals: DE Sam Hubbard

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Overview
A two-year starter at Ohio State, Hubbard made the rare conversion from all-state high school safety and lacrosse recruit to All-Big Ten defensive end, joining several other players who made an unlikely transition. Vic Beasley was a high school running back and developed into a top-10 draft pick pass rusher. Richard Sherman led Stanford in receiving before making the transition to defense and an All-Pro career as a NFL cornerback.

As a redshirt junior in 2017, Hubbard helped lead the Buckeyes to a top-10 ranked defense and arguably the best defensive line in college football. Hubbard was a quarter of Ohio State’s “Rushmen” package, including Tyquan Lewis, Jalyn Holmes and Nick Bosa.

While not a sudden rusher, Hubbard is a balanced athlete with the core flexibility and enough twitch to manipulate blockers in space. His instincts are a critical part of his success and much of that is due to his preparation, but he tends to overthink things, which stalls his pass rush. He lacks sophistication in his pass rush sequence, but his athleticism and intelligence fuel his versatility and give NFL coaches a baseline to develop his skills and responsibilities.

BACKGROUND
A three-star linebacker recruit out of high school, Hubbard was a two-sport star at Moeller, leading the football team to back-to-back state titles as an all-state safety. He was also a standout midfielder on the lacrosse team in high school and originally verballed to Notre Dame to play lacrosse before Urban Meyer recruited him to play football for the Buckeyes – Hubbard decommitted from Notre Dame and gave up lacrosse as a high school senior to focus on football.

Hubbard arrived in Columbus as a linebacker and tight end before moving to the defensive line during his redshirt year in 2014. With Joey Bosa suspended for the 2015 season opener, he earned his first career start and played a significant role off the bench the rest of his redshirt freshman season, finishing with 28 tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks and his first career interception to earn Freshman All-American honors. With Bosa leaving for the NFL, Hubbard took over his starting job and posted 46 tackles, 8.0 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks in 2016, earning All-Big Ten Honorable Mention honors.

Hubbard returned for his redshirt junior season in 2017 and started eight games, finishing second on the team with 13.5 tackles for loss, 7.0 sacks and a pair of forced fumbles to earn Second Team All-Big Ten honors.

Analysis
STRENGTHS
Nimble, flexible athlete. Lateral footwork to exploit blockers in space. Rarely gets off-schedule with his rush, keeping his hips and feet in sync. Attacks with forward lean, maintaining balance between his upper and lower halves. Quick reflexes to properly react to movement. Busy hands to swipe and take advantage of mistakes by blockers. High football IQ and rarely fooled tracking the football. Not a power player, but not easily redirected in the run game. Gets the ballcarrier on the ground when he makes contact. Comfortable playing in space, dropping into zones. Worked hard in the weight room to develop his body, gaining 40+ pounds since committing to play football. Studious and hard-working with an appetite for improvement. Successful in the classroom, becoming the 30th player in Ohio State history to earn Academic All-American honors. Named a 2017 team captain. Offers position flex, especially considering his background as a linebacker/safety. Productive resume, averaging double-digit tackles for loss each season in Columbus. – Dane Brugler 1/2/2018

WEAKNESSES
Conservative rusher and needs to trust his reflexes. Shorter stride length and doesn’t have screaming arc speed. Needs to better time the snap count and improve his initial attack. Hand tactics are still in development phase, lacking mature move-to-move transition skills. Doesn’t have the power to bull rush or go through blockers. Average arm length and build likely maxed out. Benefited from a loaded defensive line, giving him one-on-one opportunities and allowing him to be rested for all four quarters. – Dane Brugler 1/2/2018

COMPARES TO: Emmanuel Ogbah, Cleveland Browns – The first pick of the second round in the 2016 draft class, Ogbah has been a dependable NFL starter when healthy. The absence of a distinguishing trait is what likens him to Hubbard, who has plenty of workable tools to be a steady pro.

IN OUR VIEW: Although his tape doesn’t show a difference-maker, Hubbard is the type of competitor who wants to be great and offers the requisite athleticism and smarts that the NFL covets. The word safe is dangerous when discussing draft picks, but safe is appropriate for Hubbard with his well-rounded skill-set, which should make him a reliable, long-term starter.

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