Kareem Hunt exploded on the scene in his rookie year with the Chiefs in 2017, but as a video surfaced which got him in trouble, his career has never been the same. Hunt’s current situation reminds me of Michael Vick. Vick, like Hunt, got into trouble and was suspended from playing (the difference is Hunt did not go to jail). In Hunt’s case, the Falcons are the Chiefs who let him go because of his actions outside of football. The Eagles for Vick are the Browns for Hunt. His talent has not vanished because he did not play a full season since 2017. He is still an elite running back that came at extreme value into Cleveland. Hunt could easily be the number one running back on most teams, yet he sits as the backup to Nick Chubb. His real value to a team is not shown in his current ADP at all. He is the best backup any team could have in terms of talent. Do not overlook Hunt this year.
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Hunt only played in the final 8 games after his suspension, but we instantly saw a potential glimpse of what Hunt’s role will be on the Browns moving forward. He saw most of his work in the receiving game out of the backfield. Chubb is not the type to get very involved in the passing game, so we will see more and more of Hunt in those types of situations. With 2019 just being the trial run for what Chubb and Hunt can do together, I would suspect we see a lot more action out of the running backs with Hunt being very valuable in PPR leagues.
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We have to remember where Hunt was before to understand his potential. Remember that he LED the league in rushing yards in his rookie season with 1,327 yards. In 2018, he was around the same pace as he was in 2017 before his season got cut short. In 2019, where Chubb fell short, Hunt picked up the work, mainly in receiving. In most rankings, Hunt is projected around the RB30 range, sometimes even creeping into the mid to early 20s. Why is a backup being projected above many starting running backs? I suspect that Hunt will likely creep up on Chubb and have the chance to prove he is the better running back out of the two of them.
Auction Value: $12
While people see Nick Chubb being the starter for the Browns, they begin to avoid Hunt because he’s a “backup”. While he is listed that way, he certainly will not act as a true backup. He will receive many opportunities and should absolutely be drafted before some of the other running backs in his current area. He is at worst an RB2 with RB1 upside. If Chubb goes down with an injury, he is now worth a high-end first-round draft pick. Why would you not want this type of player in the 4th-5th round?
I just mentioned that he is at worst an RB2. I do not see more than 20 running backs finishing above a player that just two years ago led the league in rushing. Yes, he will be split with Chubb who is currently the top option, but the Browns will be using their stockpile of running backs to the maximum. You can bet that he will be the top option in the passing game out of the backfield while also getting a handful of the carries. The Browns have made significant progress in putting together a team that can actually move the ball and Hunt is now a part of that. The Browns are likely to put up many touchdowns this year and Hunt will have his share of it.
While he is a very good running back with his fair share of carries, if Chubb stays healthy, he won’t produce exceptional numbers. His ceiling for while Chubb splits the work would be around RB15 I imagine. But if you are talking about his true ceiling, I would have it at RB5. If Chubb goes down and Hunt held all the action, he would be a top 5 running back. He has shown in the past what he is able to do with the ball in his hands. His yards after initial contact is ridiculous. He averaged 2.7 yards after contact last year and 3.2 yards the year before. If he were to get the starting job, he would be top tier.
#Browns RB Kareem Hunt’s ranks from the time he returned to the team in 2019 (Wk10-17):
▪️Forced missed tackles on receptions: 15 (2nd)
▪️Elusive rating: 119.2 (3rd)
▪️Receiving grade: 83.4 (4th) pic.twitter.com/xYHbDkl5YB
— PFF CLE Browns (@PFF_Browns) July 4, 2020
Cleveland Browns Offense
In 2019, the Browns had a lot to live up to since they had just brought in many offensive weapons like Odell Beckham Jr. They did not reach up to the hype with their lack of execution. They had the talent, but the coaching was horrible. With the hiring of a whole new coaching staff, the Browns look hopeful for the 2020 season. With a new focus on beefing up the offensive line, the offense only looks to be greater. With all the weapons from last year returning AND with Kareem Hunt being available all season long, it is hard to think of a timeline in which the Browns do not find success. Baker Mayfield has another year under his belt with experience and appears to be healthy and ready to go. The only bad part is David Njoku wanting to be traded. But the Browns should get quite the return if they are able to find another team who wants him. Nonetheless, the Browns have a ton of weapons surrounding Hunt that will keep the offense moving. The coaching cannot really get worse, so it is all uphill from here.
Strength of Schedule
Based on John Breech’s breakdown of every teams’ schedule, the Browns have the 4th easiest schedule based on opponent win percentages. The only real scary team that the Browns have to play is their divisional rival, the Ravens. They face off in the season opener on the road and face them again at home on Monday Night Football. One favorable matchup for Hunt is against the Texans who let up the most receiving yards to running backs last season. Also, their matchup against the Jaguars should be a party for the Browns’ backfield. The Jaguars gave up the most fantasy points to running backs last year and with Chubb and Hunt in the backfield, expect a lot of action in that game from the two of them.
While there is skepticism for whether Hunt will ever go back to his glory days, he showed last year that he is up for the challenge. For the amount of time that he played and for being a backup, his numbers were not bad in any regard. His value will continue to rise over time as the Browns continue to use him and implement him as a target in their offense. His receiving game will be very valuable in PPR leagues especially because of his catching ability and Chubb’s lack thereof. Chubb should absolutely be taken as a low-end RB2 to start the draft with the ability to climb to RB1 if the opportunity arises.
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