By Michael James
Buying low on a player does not necessarily mean that they haven’t played well, rather that they have not played up to their potential.
After some preseason buzz, Kansas City Chiefs rookie running back Kareem Hunt came out of the gate on a rampage. Shaking off a first-carry fumble, he went on to score six touchdowns and amassed over 530 all-purpose yards through the first three games of 2017. Hunt has been unable to find the end zone since, not reaching the 15-point mark (in standard scoring and ½ pt. PPR formats) since Week 3. This has caused concern for some Hunt owners, as he has been more of an RB2 in the weeks following his promising breakout.
Hunt is not a buy-low candidate because he has been bad, quite the opposite. Each week, Hunt has demonstrated excellent vision, balance and ability to break tackles and is not competing with anyone for carries. This is a guy who is going to be getting anywhere from 16-25 touches per week in Andy Reid’s running back friendly offense, and there will almost certainly be some positive touchdown regression in the second half of the season.
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After starting off at an unsustainable pace of two scores per game, the touchdowns have disappeared. It is legitimately difficult to receive as many touches as Hunt does on a weekly basis and not find the end zone. I see that pendulum swinging back the other way moving forward. He is the Field of Dreams of fantasy football, give Hunt the rock 20 times and the touchdowns WILL come. Keep in mind that in some of his recent performances, Hunt has faced off against a stout Denver run defense, a Cowboys front seven that has been rounding into form as of late as well as a very good Steelers defense. But that script is about to flip.
Hunt has a dream of a schedule down the stretch. Following his Week 10 bye, Hunt will face off against a Giants defense that has been falling apart recently, and looks as if they have completely given up. Following the Giants, he then matches up against the Bills, Jets, Raiders, Chargers (LAC ceded 172 yards and a score to Hunt Week 3), and wrapping up with the Miami Dolphins. These defenses have been middling (at best) if not outright bad.
Another factor to consider is that these are all extremely winnable games for an explosive Chiefs’ offense that has struggled recently, and is looking to round back into form following their bye week. High scoring games will be fruitful because Hunt is involved as a pass catcher, and blowouts (favoring KC) lead to clock killing usage. That’s where Hunt has really made an impact, in the second half of games. Hunt is a Marshawn Lynch type runner that will wear down defenses leaving them vulnerable to long chunk plays. Earlier this season we saw Hunt’s homerun hitting ability, having two touchdown runs of 50+ yards in addition to a 78-yard screen pass that went for a score. The man can score from pretty much anywhere and is a nightmare to tackle in the open field.
But it is not just a favorable schedule that makes Hunt a trade target, it is the current mindset that he may not be at that elite level he seemed to be early on. The Chiefs are on a bye this week and coming off some performances that very well could have scared his owners, his value will not be lower at any point for the remainder of 2017. I view Mr. Hunt as a locked and loaded top three running back on a weekly basis from here on out, and you can probably go out and acquire him for 70 cents on the dollar due to recent disappointing performances and his Week 10 bye. Savvy owners might be able to package an RB2 along with a struggling big-name receiver (i.e Will Fuller, Devante Adams, T.Y. Hilton) and pick yourself up someone that can and will make a huge impact on your team down the stretch.
(A side note: Andy Reid has had incredible record coming off a bye week, and that would set Hunt up for an immediate resurgence.)