Can Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb both be Valuable Fantasy Assets?
The Cleveland Browns have been a bad team for arguably the last 20 years. In that span they have one winning season and one playoff berth, which they lost. In 2008 they joined the Lions finishing as the only teams to finish a season 0-16. They haven’t won the division in the last 20 years and the last time they won it was in 1989. Enough about how bad they are. Things are looking up. This past season they fired head coach Freddie Kitchens, as well as general manager John Dorsey and several others in the front office. The team has been given a facelift and if Baker can take a leap forward, they could be fighting for a playoff spot. I do not see them winning the division as the Ravens and Steelers will be battling it out for first place. Let’s get down to business.
In the 2018 NFL draft the Browns selected running back Nick Chubb with the 35th overall pick, in the 2nd round. Since entering the league Chubb has established himself as arguably one of the top five running backs in football. Chubb tore his MCL, PCL, ACL, and dislocated his knee in 2015 but that injury hasn’t held him back one bit, and he has yet to miss a game during his NFL tenure. Chubb has shown that not only can he run the rock, but he is a good pass-catching back as well. Enter Kareem Hunt. John Dorsey and the Browns signed Kareem Hunt after he was released by the Kansas City Chiefs in 2018. After serving his eight-game suspension in 2019 Chubb returned to the field for the first time since he was put on the commissioner’s exempt list.
Through the first eight weeks of the season Nick Chubb was the RB6 and was averaging 18 fantasy points per game. In the final eight games of the season, after Hunt’s return, Chubb was the RB15 and averaged 13 fantasy points per game. Let’s take a closer look at how Hunt effected Chubb’s fantasy value.
First, I dove into the DLF snap count tool:
Even though Hunt saw only 23 fewer snaps than Chubb, he only had 43 carries, to Chubb’s 143. Hunt did however have 44 receptions, to Chubb’s 11. Before Hunt’s return from suspension Chubb averaged around 4.5 targets per game but after his return, he barely averaged over 1 per game. Chubb saw 19.25 carries per game before Hunt's return and 18 per game when he was active. Even though Chubb lost most of his pass-catching duties he carried the load on the ground.
If you were to take Hunt's fantasy points per game over a 16-game span, he would have finished as the RB24. Chubb finished the season as the RB8. If you were to take Chubb's points per game over the span that Hunt wasn't suspended, he would have finished as the RB18. Chubb went from a bonafide RB1 to an RB2 or flex play, with Hunt on the field with him. This isn’t to say Chubb doesn’t have RB1 upside, but we need to temper expectations now that Hunt is in the fold. Over the span of games that Hunt played in he averaged 12.7 points per game and finished the 2nd half of the season as the RB17.
Though they are under a new regime, Kevin Stefanski appears to be ready to utilize them both. In Jeff Kerr’s article, here is a quote from Stefanski about the two running backs. "If we've got two good ones, we'll figure it out. That's no problem for us. That's a good problem if it's a problem at all. It's our job to make sure we've got all these good players, let's use them. Let's use them in the right way." Even though Dalvin was the workhorse when healthy in Minnesota, he showed he was a phenomenal pass-catching back. Chubb has shown that he is more than serviceable as a pass-catcher, but if they believed in him as a true every-down back there isn’t a need to offer a tender to Hunt.
Using the ADP tool, you can see that Kareem Hunt can be had at a nice discount right now. Assuming that his utilization will be similar to what it was last season, Hunt should be a high end RB2 in PPR leagues with his pass-catching ability. Some may say that this is a new regime so we have no idea how his usage will be. That is true, but it was effective last season, as it keeps both players fresh and healthy, so it makes all the sense in the world for their usage to be similar. Over the final eight weeks of the season Chubb and Hunt finished with almost the same fantasy points per game. Pass on Chubb and steal Hunt in the later rounds.
Nick Chubb is a very talented running back, but so is Kareem Hunt. If it wasn’t for a foolish act in a hotel Hunt would be on one of the best offenses in Kansas City still and would be the defending Super Bowl champ. Instead he is on the Browns roster cutting into Chubb’s fantasy upside. If you are worried that the Browns will be running the ball more, don’t be. The Vikings had a top five scoring defense while the Brown’s had the 20th scoring defense. Will their defense be better than it was last year? More than likely. However, they will have to throw the ball to stay in games. Both players can be valuable fantasy assets, but you are potentially getting the same type of upside with Hunt. Chubb will likely cost you a second-round pick, while Hunt will be available in rounds 7-8, depending on your league size.