Heading into this NFL season, every fantasy owner knew the names of Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Dalvin Cook and Joe Mixon. These were the top four running backs selected in this year’s draft and were the rookie backs expected to make the biggest impact on the NFL and fantasy stage.
It seems it’s time to add another rookie’s name to the mix.
With Spencer Ware officially out for the season with a torn PCL, the Chiefs have handed over the reigns of the backfield to rookie Kareem Hunt. Hunt has certainly worked hard to deserve the chance to start. Through three preseason games, he’s totaled 79 yards on 18 touches (4.4 per touch) and has shown some ability in the passing game with four catches for 32 yards. He also made headlines showing off some of the best pass protection of the preseason, taking out two Bengals defenders with a very casual chop block.
In college, Hunt succeeded both as a rusher and a pass catcher for Toledo, tallying 1,475 yards on 262 carries (5.6 per carry) 10 touchdowns and adding another 403 yards and a touchdown through the air on 41 catches. He’s also got vice like hands as he didn’t drop a single one of this catchable targets nor did he fumble any of his 303 offensive touches. I’ll take that any given day of the week.
Before we get too hyped on Hunt and start drafting him in the 4th round, it’s good to note his fantasy value might have a ceiling. Head coach Andy Reid has already used the dreaded word “rotation” in describing the Chiefs’ backfield situation. However, it’s interesting to note that last week’s preseason game against the Seahawks—the game most teams play their starters and starting rotations—Hunt saw nine carries while backup running back Charcandrick West only saw three.
Currently Hunt has an ADP of 54.5 and is the 26th back coming off the board (per Fantasy Football Calculator). Now, I’m sure that’ll quickly rise as he’s being drafted below the likes of Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram—and even Spencer Ware. So, yea, he’s going to start climbing real fast.
As far as final fantasy output, I could see him going one of two ways. Either he’s an average starting running back and the Chiefs really rest on a running back committee or he takes that backfield over by storm and suddenly finds himself in one of the best situations among rookie running backs. Fournette is trapped with a bad offensive line on a bad team while Cook finds himself with an equally tough O-line and Latavius Murray potentially taking red zone carries away. McCaffrey still has to figure out his relationship with Jonathan Stewart and Mixon didn’t do enough this preseason to unequivocally win him the starting spot in Cincy (at least in my mind).
The Chiefs have built their offense in the past on a strong ground game setting up quick play action for Alex Smith. Since 2012, the Chiefs have only finished outside of the top-10 in total rushing yards once and that was last year. A return to their rushing attack would provide Hunt with plenty of opportunity.
Regardless of what happens, Hunt has joined the top rookie running backs and should be a name you look out for in your fantasy drafts. All the pieces are there for him to have a big season and he’s “ready for the challenge."
Where do you think Hunt will finish among his fellow rookie backs in total fantasy points?
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