TORRANCE, Calif. -- As Bradley Chubb snaked his way through the plethora of top-notch high school prospects competing at the Adidas 7-on-7 National Championships in early April, one thing became abundantly clear.
Not many people really noticed him.
Despite the vibrant tie-dye shirt atop his hulking 6-foot-4, 269-pound frame, Chubb didn't stand out.
Kids buzzed past him during their off time at a nifty players' lounge to stand in line for pictures with Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster ... and his French bulldog, Boujee.
Even former Alabama All-American safety and projected top-10 NFL draft pick Minkah Fitzpatrick, who traded his signature curled locks for a fresh fade, was more recognizable than Chubb.
"I come out here and no one knows me. That's like the perfect thing," the former NC State All-American defensive end told ESPN at the competition. "It keeps me working hard. I want to keep proving people wrong, no matter what I do. Playing football, everybody doubted me from high school to now."
The lack of attention from the sport's rising stars didn't really bother Chubb, but he does sense a trend. As names like Josh Allen, Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen and their dazzling arms buried Chubb in draft talk, he was prepared to hear several names before his on draft night, which was proved right as he went No. 5 to the Denver Broncos. And he is convinced the teams who passed on him have made a mistake.
"I feel like I should be the No. 1 pick, but I realize that not everyone is gonna like me," Chubb said. "They have their people that they want so I have to let that go by and whatever team I go to, I'm going to be happy and they're going to be happy.
"There are great players in this draft, but my value is a lot higher. It's not a cocky thing, just a confidence thing."
There's no question that Chubb was college football's best defender in 2017. He won both the Hendricks (best defensive end) and Nagurski (best defender) awards during a fantastic senior year, in which he registered 73 tackles with 26 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. Despite going so high in the draft, Chubb said he believed he deserved even better. He believed that after four seasons with 204 tackles, 60 tackles for loss and 26 sacks, Roger Goodell should have called his name first.
Chubb's self-confidence hasn't always been there though. He arrived at NC State in 2014 motivated to prove that he was an elite talent, but Chubb admitted he didn't take his game or his preparation seriously until the summer before his sophomore year. After totaling only four tackles during his freshman season, Chubb said he dedicated himself to training and eating properly.
He had to bulk up after moving from linebacker to end, so he committed to eating five meals a day and cutting out as much of the fried food and empty-calorie snacks as he could. Chubb transformed his body from a 230-pound project to a 275-pound masterpiece.
And as his body changed, so did his game, as he played well enough to flirt with a first-round draft grade after a junior season in which he had 22 TFLs and 10.5 sacks.
"You can't sit there and say every kid you recruit is going to be that way," NC State coach Dave Doeren said of Chubb's physical transformation. "It's a great story for kids out there that want to be like him. When you dig into how hard that guy worked, it's incredible. Guys come in [and say], 'I want to be the next Chubb.' Well you don't know what that means. The amount of sacrifice and work and extra time away from what we're allowed to do with them that he did on his own."
Chubb isn't here to discredit any other draft pick outside of the very first one, let alone a top-5 spot, but he does feel as though he's worth top-pick status, and he'll use any slight or passing by a team -- or teams -- as motivation.
He has never forgotten being able to count his college offers on six fingers or the fact that Wake Forest, the school that signed his brother, Brandon, didn't offer him until after Jim Grobe was replaced by Dave Clawson before Chubb's senior year at Hillgrove High in Powder Springs, Georgia.
Chubb wouldn't say he had it out for Wake Forest or any of the bigger schools that passed on him coming out of high school, but it's pretty telling that he was able to conjure just a little more spirit in bigger games at NC State.
ACC elites Clemson, Florida State and Miami didn't offer Chubb, so he registered 44 tackles, nine TFLs, three sacks, a fumble and an interception in his last seven games against those three. In his last three games against Wake Forest, Chubb totaled 10 tackles, 3.5 TFLs, three sacks and forced two fumbles.
Now, this isn't to say a similar fate would befall the teams that pass on Chubb in the draft, but it could serve as a warning.
But even having this discussion at all seems silly if you look at the case Chubb has presented to all 32 NFL teams. The stats are fantastic and receive and extra coat of gloss when you realize that all but four of his tackles took place in only three seasons. The film is almost mesmerizing when you consider that his speed, athleticism and agility should be reserved for a human being much smaller than him.
He's immensely powerful, but he also has the endurance and open-field speed to drop back in coverage.
In a recent evaluation of Chubb, ESPN's Todd McShay ranked him as his No. 3 overall player in this year's draft, and called Chubb "a terrific all-around player and has the same grade as I had on Myles Garrett last year." You know, the 2017 No. 1 pick who plays the same position as Chubb.
Fellow ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper lists Chubb as his No. 2 overall player, three spots higher than the first quarterback on his list -- Wyoming's Josh Allen.
When asked how to defend Chubb earlier this season, Syracuse coach Dino Babers simply said, "I-D-K."
Future NFL Hall of Fame edge rusher Von Miller told the NFL Network a week before the draft that Chubb looks like "Khalil Mack and Von Miller put together. ... You don't come across guys like that often."
ESPN NFL analyst Louis Riddick lauded Chubb for his ability to be able to play with his hand in the dirt in a 4-3 scheme or standing up in a 3-4. He also rated him as a better overall prospect than Garrett was a year ago.
Chubb is thankful to even be in this position, but he refuses to sell himself short. He wants to be the No. 1 pick and he sees himself as a worthy choice at the top.
"I've been working tirelessly from the day I stepped on campus to now and I'm still trying to prove people wrong," he said. "There's a lot of people out there doubting me and saying I'm not this, not that. I knew I had the potential in me so just proving people wrong is something I love to do."