The second-biggest name on the running back market officially has an NFL home. Former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt signed with the Cleveland Browns this past Monday, joining a fairly crowded backfield. Hunt, of course, was at the center of a domestic violence incident a few months back, leading to his initial release from the Chiefs. With Hunt set to return to the NFL, let’s take a look at how the Kareem Hunt signing affect the fantasy football value of Hunt, Nick Chubb, and Duke Johnson.
Fantasy Football: How Kareem Hunt Joining the Cleveland Browns Affects Nick Chubb, Duke Johnson
Prior to his release, Kareem Hunt was one of the best running backs in the league, both in real and fantasy football. The former third-round pick led the league in rushing as a rookie and added an additional 824 yards in 11 games during 2018. Hunt brought versatility out of the backfield, as he recorded 79 receptions for 833 yards throughout his 27-game career. When adding in a combined 25 touchdowns, it’s clear to see why Hunt was one of the top running backs in fantasy football.
Part of the reason Hunt was able to put up these types of numbers is that he saw the lions share of the snaps. As a rookie, Hunt played in 64.75% of Kansas City’s snaps. This number, while impressive on its own, becomes more impressive when considering Hunt played just five snaps in a meaningless Week 17 game. Hunt followed this up by playing in anywhere from 57% to 85% of Kansas City’s offensive snaps before getting released.
Hunt is a fantastic running back, there’s no denying that. However, his snap percentage will decrease with the Cleveland Browns. Nick Chubb is significantly better than Spencer Ware, Damien Williams, or any of Kansas City’s other running backs. Chubb’s too good to keep on the bench, so Hunt will spend more time on the sidelines. With less playing time comes fewer opportunities, which will hurt his overall ceiling.
Additionally, nobody knows when Hunt will play this year. The 23-year old is on the Commissioner’s Exempt list, meaning he’s technically not eligible to play. Hunt will be removed from the list, but he’ll have to face a suspension. Trying to predict the NFL’s suspension policy is a fruitless effort, but Hunt should be gone for at least a few weeks. Once he returns, he should be a solid RB2. However, as far as fantasy is concerned, right now Hunt isn’t worth anything more than a late-round selection.
The Nick Chubb hype train got derailed with the arrival of Kareem Hunt. Cleveland’s second-round pick had a strong rookie season, recording 996 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 192 carries. He’s not much of a threat in the passing game, but he showed the ability to be a staple in Cleveland’s backfield
Chubb will probably split carries 50/50 with Hunt when the newest Brown returns to the field. However, when Hunt’s suspended, Chubb will the feature back. After starting the year buried behind Carlos Hyde, Chubb took the lead role once Cleveland shipped him off to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Once in charge of the backfield, Chubb had a 47% or higher snap percentage in nine of the last 10 games of the season. Over that same timeframe, Chubb recorded 176 carries for 823 yards and six touchdowns, good for 4.68 yards-per-carry.
Chubb’s numbers will go down when Hunt returns, but this signing makes him a perfect buy-low candidate. Casual fantasy football fans will take this signing to mean that Chubb won’t have much value in fantasy. The truth is that Chubb will be a borderline-elite weapon early in the season before becoming a solid RB2 once Hunt returns. There are multiple examples around the league of teams with two startable running backs. If Chubb’s there in the fifth round of your fantasy draft, make sure to pick him up.
Duke Johnson is the biggest loser. Johnson didn’t have much fantasy value, to begin with, but what little value he had is now gone. Johnson is nowhere near as good a runner as Nick Chubb, however; Johnson’s pass-catching ability gave him a clear path to the field. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find a role for Johnson with Hunt in town. Hunt is probably a pass catcher and is a significantly better runner. This means that Johnson doesn’t have a set role aside from backing up superior players
Johnson is a streaming candidate during Hunt’s suspension, but he’ll have no value when Hunt returns. This is a very cut-and-dry case – barring injury, Johnson won’t do a thing in fantasy football.
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