What Should Fantasy Managers Do with Kareem Hunt?

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Just four short weeks ago, Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt had the entire NFL in the palm of his hand. The powerful rookie led the league in rushing through the first seven weeks and was fantasy football's overall RB2 in PPR scoring, behind just Le’Veon Bell.

Hunt was dominating teams on the ground with his All-Pro worthy elusiveness and through the air with his above-average receiving skills. He was so difficult to stop that he logged at least 100 yards from scrimmage in each of his first seven starts. Then came week 8, where the Hunt Train derailed.

Over the past four weeks of the season, Hunt weighs in as the RB40 in PPR with players such as Devontae Booker, J.D. McKissic, and Orleans Darkwa outscoring him. This fall from grace has many owners asking just how much must they put up with before Hunt can be benched outright. After another dud performance in a choice matchup with Buffalo in Week 12, is it time to do the unthinkable?

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Hunt Owners, Don't Despair (Yet)

There is a narrative circulating through the fantasy football community suggesting Head Coach Andy Reid is to blame for Hunt’s regression. Pass-catching specialist Charcandrick West has seen an uptick in volume, and it’s easy to suggest that could be a reason for Hunt’s decline. Analytics suggest otherwise.

Aside from the road contest against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 9 where he logged a 40 percent snap share, West has been utilized the same way in nearly every game this season; this includes the seven-game stretch where Hunt accumulated 100 scrimmage yards in every contest. West’s snap shares have fallen between 19 and 34 percent in all but two games this year. Hunt’s weekly snap share has never fallen below 54 percent and has only been below 65.5 percent twice all year (one of those being the powerhouse performance in Week 1 against the New England Patriots). If usage and volume aren’t the issues, then what is?

Touchdown production and red zone opportunity are arguably the most significant reasons for Hunt’s fantasy stock plunge. He went from seeing a hefty three red zone opportunities per contest through his first six games down to just 1.6 over his last five. This includes two games where he didn’t have any red zone volume at all. Kansas City also ranks sixth-lowest in the league in terms of rushes inside the opponent’s five-yard line, with just .5 of such carries per game on average per Pro Football Focus.

Hunt’s big play ability has sharply declined over the past month, as well. He was winning owners fantasy matchups almost single-handedly with his tremendous tackle-evading ability and gashing opposing defenses with 10-yard run after 10-yard run. He had 19 of such carries through the first five games of the season. Since then, he has just five. Despite this regression in the long gain department, Hunt still remains second in the NFL in rushing behind the aforementioned Le’Veon Bell. He still remains first in tackles avoided among all running backs and fourth in yards after contact among runners with at least a 50 percent snap-share per PFF.

Another interesting point of reference for Hunt is how subjective his fantasy production is to that of Alex Smith’s productivity. Hunt interestingly cooled down about the same time as his veteran quarterback did from an analytics perspective.

Smith has thrown for greater than 250 yards in six games this season. In those six games, Hunt has averaged 19.8 half-PPR fantasy points and 128 scrimmage yards per game. In the other five games, Hunt averaged just 11.8 fantasy points.

There’s a lingering problem with the Kansas City offense, and the root falls even deeper than Hunt or even their struggling quarterback. The offensive line was controlling the line of scrimmage through the first several games this season but have painfully regressed. They are allowing their running backs just 1.7 yards of running room before first contact. This ranks 11th-worst in the league.

Hunt has disappointed fantasy managers over the last four games, but his future is brighter than it seems. The high volume running back will do battle with the New York Jets, Oakland Raiders, and Los Angeles Chargers through the next three weeks; all three defenses rank 10th or worse in rushing yards allowed this season.

The silver lining for Hunt owners is he is still seeing RB1 volume. There is no legitimate threat to his workload, so long as he continues to utilize his league-best elusiveness. The proper term for Hunt is ‘regression to the mean’, which means that it’s only a matter of time before the continuous volume leads to fantasy relevance once again. Continue starting Hunt as an RB2 with high-end RB1 upside in all formats. This is also a good time to buy low on Hunt in dynasty formats as well, so long as the league has not passed its trade deadline yet.

 

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