The last time we discussed Kareem Hunt joining the Cleveland Browns, an impending suspension was looming, and no one knew the duration. It turned out to be eight games — slightly less than I speculated — so what does this mean for his fantasy football value?
We all know Hunt is immensely talented but also is skating on paper-thin ice at this point. If he as much as looks cross-eyed at someone, the hammer will come crashing down. Returning in Week 9, since Cleveland has its bye in Week 7, he’ll face the Denver Broncos on the road. The rest of the schedule, in order: Buffalo Bills, Pittsburgh Steelers, Miami Dolphins, at Steelers, Cincinnati Bengals, at Arizona Cardinals and Baltimore Ravens … Week 17 is a trip to Cincy, for anyone playing that week. Essentially, most gamers will have Hunt for seven games.
Such a layoff easily could result in an injury, and then fears of how well Hunt knows the playbook, if he is in game shape, and whether he has chemistry with the players around him have to be factored into expectations.
Cleveland’s O-line was good enough to make Nick Chubb a dominant fantasy factor down the stretch in 2018, and there is no reason to believe it will be worse this season. Baker Mayfield’s maturation can only help, and the passing game should drastically improve with the addition of Odell Beckham Jr.
Third-down back Duke Johnson wants out of Cleveland, and the Browns aren’t willing to grant him this request … yet. He could stick around long enough to cover the Hunt suspension before being dealt at the NFL trade deadline.
Fantasy football outlook
Purely on talent alone, Hunt is a low-end RB2 in PPR in a time-sharing situation with Chubb. Should Hunt somehow take the job outright — which is unlikely, barring an injury to Chubb — he has No. 1 fantasy value.
In the event Johnson sticks around into the time Hunt returns to the field, all bets are off for consistently lineup-worthy performances. Much of this comes down to how confident Cleveland is in Hunt around the time of his eligible return date (probably quite), and whether the team can receive a worthy haul for Johnson in a deal (not as relevant). Johnson simply could be retained as depth, too.
Hunt’s ADP is 7:04 in PPR, and he’s going, on average, as RB34. This is a reasonable spot to take a chance on him, provided you’ve hit on your first six choices. I suspect many owners will get into a quandary and feel compelled to reach for him, but this draft placement is about as early as anyone should conceivably take a shot on Hunt. He is also RB34 in standard scoring, going almost a half of a round later.
Chubb owners will want to add Hunt as an insurance policy, and speculative gamers can safely view the former Kansas City Chief as a standalone flex piece in PPR leagues. The schedule isn’t overly difficult, and even if Hunt needs a few games to get his sea legs underneath him, we’re still looking at the final month or so of the fantasy season for him to be a potential missing piece in a championship run. Much of it, though, comes down to how owners build around him to get into contention without Hunt.