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Kareem Hunt to Cleveland - Fantasy Impact

Everyone knew Kareem Hunt was not only going to get a second chance in the NFL, but was going to be signed before the 2019 season began. What we didn't know or expect was for it to happen so soon, particularly before the NFL even completed its investigation of Hunt's shameful behavior that caused the Chiefs to release him.

While this move appears to make little sense for the Browns as an organization that is on the precipice of being a force for a long time (read: the length of Baker Mayfield's career, or, at least, his rookie deal), it happened and it has fantasy implications.

Disclaimer: the entire focus of this article is on Hunt's fantasy football value and that of his new teammates. In no way is this an endorsement of his impending reinstatement or him as a person.

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Another Dreaded Committee?

I've had multiple people already make some sort of claim to me about how Nick Chubb's value is dead. Nick Chubb is not dead - far from it. If anything, this time period immediately following the Browns' signing of Hunt is a great time to try and buy low on Chubb in keeper/dynasty formats. The Browns spent a high second-round pick on Chubb, who is only 23 years old and coming off a rookie season where he finished eighth in yards created per carry and 11th in juke rate. By all accounts, Chubb had an excellent rookie year once he and Mayfield supplanted Carlos Hyde and Tyrod Taylor.

The focus here, however, is on 2019 redraft leagues, and what Hunt's signing will do to Chubb's value and, to a lesser extent, Duke Johnson. We'll start with Chubb.

Fantasy owners should hope that Hunt's existence depresses Chubb's draft stock. I really can't envision a scenario where Hunt is suspended for any fewer than 10 games. He may even get 12 and possibly a full season (although I would consider that highly unlikely). Let's assume 10 games, though. That means for the first 10 weeks of the season, Chubb is completely unaffected by Hunt. It is business as usual for Chubb and his fantasy owners. So we're really only dealing with a short period of time in which Hunt returns from suspension after not playing football for what will almost certainly be a full year at that point. It is a bit unrealistic to expect Hunt to be thrust right into heavy action, especially considering the fact that Chubb should be playing well. Come fantasy playoffs, Hunt could end up being a thorn in Chubb's side, operating as the primary passing-down back and stealing a few carries, but this is still Chubb's backfield and he will still command 15+ carries and the goal line work.

As for Johnson, the reality is that he wasn't really used much last season to begin with. Johnson's redraft value was already minimal - an RB4, at best. Last year Johnson saw a career low in targets with just 62 and carries with just 40. Johnson had 175 opportunities to touch the ball in 2017. That number dropped to 102 in 2018. Once Hunt returns from his inevitable suspension, Johnson may never see the field.


Bottom Line

While NFL head coaches have been known to do curious things with their personnel, the fact remains that Chubb is a better overall player than Hunt. While Hunt may be better in the passing game (and by no means do I think Chubb is a poor pass catcher - he just wasn't given the opportunity), Chubb is a superior runner and more suited for the type of offense the Browns run.

Mayfield is going to be an elite QB in this year for many years. He is not going to be checking it down over and over again. The Browns will utilize a power running game to complement their downfield passing attack. Running back success is largely a product of offensive situation. The Chiefs' air raid offense is what made Hunt so prolific. That's not say Hunt is a bad player by any means - he's a good running back - he's just not top tier; that was a product of his team.

If Hunt was given a 70% opportunity share on the Browns, he'd still be an RB1, but not quite as good as he was on the Chiefs. I don't foresee any scenario where that happens in 2019. If Hunt gets 10 games, his redraft value is minimal. He belongs on rosters because he'll be the best handcuff on the game, but fantasy owners should not have any fears over drafting Chubb in 2019.

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