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Fantasy Football Impact of Kareem Hunt Signing

There's a familiar face in Cleveland, what impact does the Kareem Hunt signing have on fantasy football in 2023?
Kareem Hunt Fantasy Football

It’s official. After initial reports in the offseason predicted Hunt would sign in New Orleans, he has returned to Cleveland on a deal worth up to $4 million. What impact does Kareem Hunt have on fantasy football this season?

Fantasy Football Impact of Kareem Hunt Signing

Kareem Hunt – Stock Up

Going from not being on a team to being on a team will generally be good for a player. Shocking as that may be, his stock isn’t going to rise too much until snap counts and carry splits are seen in Cleveland. Hunt was essentially benched in Cleveland in the back half of the 2022 NFL season and looked to be a shell of his former self.

Year over year Hunt has been an efficient runner. That is, until 2022. From 2017 through 2021 Hunt averaged 4.6 yards per carry. That plummeted to 3.8 yards per carry in 2022, and his yards per touch and yards per target similarly suffered. He no longer possesses the top-end athleticism that carried him early in his career.

Hunt’s biggest benefit is his extensive knowledge of the offense and his use as a receiver out of the backfield. He had more catches in an injury-shortened season than Ford has had in a single season ever (including college). Weirdly enough, the roles the two players may find themselves in are similar to Chubb and Hunt in 2021. Ford will handle the majority of snaps and carries while Hunt will slot in on obvious passing downs.

Jerome Ford – Stock Neutral

No running back is taking every carry and every reception out of the backfield. It’s not 1994 anymore. However, Ford has already shown enough to be the lead back in the offense. His stock skyrocketed following Nick Chubb’s season-ending injury.

It’s gotten lost in the shuffle, but Ford was at one point an extremely promising NFL prospect. He was originally a four-star recruit who committed to Alabama but quickly found himself behind other NFL-caliber running backs. The 2019 Alabama team included Najee Harris and Brian Robinson Jr., so he transferred to Cincinnati and was an integral part of the 2021 Cincinnati team that made the College Football Playoff. This move likely cost him draft capital, and he fell to day three in the NFL draft.

As a professional, he has been stuck behind Chubb and was admittedly behind Hunt in 2022. Neither Hunt nor Ford has cracked 50 percent of snaps since Week 1 of 2022 when Hunt hit 56 percent and finished as the RB4 on the week. Unless Hunt has somehow turned back the wheels of time in the last six months, he lacks the explosiveness to earn the first look at opportunities in this offense and Ford will get the majority of early down touches until otherwise indicated. His performance against Pittsburgh was heavily inflated by a 69-yard breakaway run, but he also turned multiple clear negative plays into net positives.

Cleveland Browns Offense – Stock Down

Ideally, a less splashy running back would have signed in Cleveland, signaling a heavier workload for Ford. Instead, Hunt is just a big enough name to steal work, but not talented enough anymore to earn all the opportunities in his own right. Fantasy football running backs either need a lot of volume or a lot of talent, and right now the Cleveland backfield won’t have either. Moving from Nick Chubb to any other running back is a clear downgrade, and Deshaun Watson hasn’t looked good enough to put the team in scoring situations often. Ford is the clear player to own but is closer to a low-end matchup-dependent RB2 in fantasy than anything else.

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Main Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports


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