Former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt is out of the league after video surfaced of him assaulting a woman in a hotel hallway. While this issue obviously goes far beyond the football field, it does significantly affect the Chiefs offense and the fantasy football landscape. Hunt was a true workhorse back, but now that responsibility will likely turn to Spencer Ware. Hunt played in over 70% of the teams’ snaps, so Ware should have a pretty sizeable role moving forward. He’s obviously not as good as Hunt, but is he capable of putting up similar numbers in one of the most prolific offenses in the league?
Fantasy Football: What to Expect From Spencer Ware After the Kareem Hunt Release
Before we get into what Ware can do, let’s look at what Hunt did in the Chiefs offense. Hunt was one of the most dynamic players in the league, capable of beating defenses on the ground and through the air. Throughout his 27-game career, Hunt recorded 2,151 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns on 453 carries to go along with 79 receptions for 833 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was a true dual-threat, capable of doing everything at an elite level.
While Ware doesn’t have that ceiling, he does have a similar skill set. Ware first joined the Chiefs in 2015 but didn’t emerge as a starter until 2016. During his year as the lead back, Ware recorded 921 yards and three touchdowns on 214 attempts for a respectable 4.3 yards per carry. Additionally, Ware added 33 receptions for 447 yards and two touchdowns through the air. Again, this isn’t Hunt-level production, but it’s enough to show Ware is more than capable of being a starting-caliber running back.
It’s worth noting Ware’s 2016 season was remarkably similar to Hunt’s 2018 from an efficiency standpoint. Per SharpFootballStats.com, Ware had a 52.3% success rate on running plays during 2016. Hunt, meanwhile, had a 54.1% success rate throughout the course of 2018. While Ware lacks Hunt’s big-play ability, he’s shown the skillset to keep the offense moving forward when he was the starting running back.
Lastly, Ware is already a proven playmaker in this offense. Ware hasn’t earned much playing time this season, recording double-digit touches in just one outing. However, he made that one outing count. Playing a then-high 31.4% of offensive snaps, Ware recorded 59 yards on eight carries to go along with three receptions for 30 yards. Granted, this was against a bad Cincinnati Bengals defense, but 8.1 yards per touch is good production regardless of opponent.
The Cincinnati game should be his floor moving forward. Even with double-digit touches, he still only saw the field on less than one-third of the offensive snaps. He should see at least 60% of the snaps moving forward, so he’ll gain even more opportunities. He’s a proven playmaker when he gets the ball, and now he’ll be getting the ball more than ever.
The Situation Around Ware
Of course, a running backs’ total production is often determined by factors outside of their control. If an offensive line is terrible, it’s hard for a running back to be productive. Likewise, if your passing attack is anemic, teams will key in on the running game.
As far as run blocking goes, the Kansas City offensive line is around league average. Per Football Outsiders, Kansas City currently has the 17th-best run blocking unit in the league. Running backs get stuffed behind the line of scrimmage on 18.4% of rushes, which is the 15th-best rate in the league. Basically, this offensive line isn’t good enough for Ware to get yardage without having to do anything on his own. However, it’s good enough to put Ware in position to succeed on a majority of his runs.
While the offensive line may be par for the course, the Chiefs offense is anything but. Kansas City is currently averaging a league-leading 36.7 points per game behind the aerial dominance of Patrick Mahomes and Tyreek Hill. This is arguably the best passing attack in the entire NFL, and every defense in the league is trying to figure out how to stop this passing game.
Because of this, defenses weren’t exactly worried about stopping the run even when Hunt was in the game. Per NFL Next Gen stats, opposing defenses put eight or more defenders in the box on just 15.5% of Hunt’s carries. This rate is below average and signifies that Hunt typically saw favorable running situations. Interestingly, Ware actually saw a higher percentage of stacked boxes back when he was the lead back in 2016 (21.03%).
Ware would face favorable running situations even if defenses treated him the exact same way they treated Hunt. However, that seems highly unlikely. Hunt is a better and more dangerous running back, so defenses would be foolish to put the same amount of focus on stopping Ware as they did Hunt.
Long story short, Kansas City’s passing attack should open up the running game for Ware. Opposing defenses will happily allow four-yard carries if it means preventing a 40-yard completion to Hill. It seems likely opposing teams will sell out to stop the pass and dare Kansas City to win by running the football. Ware is certainly up for the task in this regard, and should feast against defenses that aren’t that worried about the running game.
Last Word on Spencer Ware Moving Forward
The release of Kareem Hunt gives Spencer Ware a big opportunity to be one of the most impactful players on the fantasy football landscape. Hunt saw over 70% of the offensive snaps this season, and Ware should be the guy to take the majority of that work.
Like Hunt, Ware has the ability to beat opposing defenses in both the passing and running game. While he’s not as good as Hunt and doesn’t have the same explosive ability, Ware is roughly just as efficient as Hunt. Additionally, Hunt showed the ability to make big plays earlier in the year whenever he gets the ball. Now, he’ll have the opportunity to get the ball far more often.
Kansas City’s offensive line isn’t anything special, but their passing attack is one of the best in the league. Even with Hunt in the lineup, teams were constantly worried about stopping the pass instead of the run. Now that Hunt’s out of the picture, opposing defenses will focus more even more effort on containing the passing game. Ware should face a low percentage of stacked boxes which will only add to high production.
Ware isn’t as good as Hunt, so this is still going to be a downgrade in overall production. However, Ware is a talented back playing in a borderline-unstoppable offense. He’s shown the ability to be a strong running back for this team and can beat defenses in multiple ways. He may not be a true top-tier RB1 like Hunt, but he can easily give you high-end RB2 production with RB1 upside. Essentially, if you’re the Kareem Hunt owner, just put Ware in his space.
Embed from Getty Images