The injury to Nick Chubb set the fantasy football world into panic. He was a key piece to thousands of fantasy football rosters, and in a moment he is gone. Now all of these teams need to find a new weapon to replace their RB1 and all eyes are on Chubb’s direct replacement, Jerome Ford.
Ford in his full-time debut was fantastic for the Browns. A highlight reel 69-yard run helped cement his spot as the premier back for Cleveland. He continued to look solid throughout this game against a good Pittsburgh defense. Savvy fantasy managers went out on Tuesday morning to put their bid for Ford in hopes to collect another potential starting running back when waivers clear Wednesday.
Wednesday is here, waivers have run, and teams feel good about picking up Jerome Ford. Unfortunately the Cleveland Browns had to ruin the excitement surrounding a young, potential stud running back. On Wednesday September 9, the Browns welcomed back Kareem Hunt on a 1-year deal to serve as another option in the weakened Cleveland backfield. What was going to be a perfect situation for fantasy managers is now a muddy, unclear running back room.
Let’s talk about how, or even if, Kareem Hunt coming back to Cleveland affects the potential fantasy value of Jerome Ford.
Two years ago, Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb were a surprisingly effective tandem for fantasy football. The pair was one of the rare cases of having two backs on the same team both producing for fantasy football. Hunt was bringing in the points from a receiving perspective, but would find himself breaking off long runs when Nick Chubb needed a breather. They were the perfect combination, a classic “thunder and lightning” kind of duo. Things changed however when Hunt suffered a combo knee and ankle injury, which sidelined Hunt for the majority of the season. When he returned in 2022, plenty of people saw the potential for the two to go back to how things were. Sadly that wasn’t the case.
In 2022 Hunt did see double digit carries in 6 of 8 games before the bye week. He would just eclipse ten fantasy points twice during that span – depending on your scoring it could have been three times. It didn’t look as though he had that same explosive step after that injury the year prior and eventually lost touches. In fact in the back half of the year, Hunt failed to finish a game with over ten rushing attempts.
This is all important because Kareem Hunt’s usage last year signaled to fans that the Browns were ok with moving on from the former KC star. They Browns had multiple chances to bring back Hunt in the offseason as well, but they passed on him at every turn.
There isn’t anything that would suggest that Kareem Hunt will eat into the rushing attempts for Jerome Ford. The Browns had all the trust in Ford heading into the season, and he balled out when he was given the chance. If there were to be a split, it will most likely be 80/20 in favor of Ford.
Here is where things could get interesting for those who scooped up Hunt before the news. Ford received four targets after stepping in for the injured Chubb and took advantage of those opportunities by bringing in 25 yards and securing a touchdown. If Ford does end up taking the bulk of the early down work, we could see Hunt step in for plenty of third down opportunities and usurp a few of those targets.
Now not all third down opportunities are created equal however, actually Kyle Borgognoni of the Fantasy Footballers has an awesome article about this. Kareem Hunt could be out on third downs simply to be a pass blocker. But this Browns passing attack is absolutely rotten at the moment thanks to a subpar Deshaun Watson. The Browns offense could look to utilize more passes close to the line of scrimmage to allow guys like Elijah Moore, Jerome Ford and now Kareem Hunt to make a man miss for a big play.
It remains to be seen what role Ford, or Hunt for that matter, will have in the passing game going forward. Chubb had four targets in week 1 as well, hinting that four might be the magic number in this Browns offense. If that is as large as the pie is going to get, it will be tough to do much with so few targets between Ford and Hunt.
So, Will Hunt’s Presence Hurt Ford?
Looking at the bigger picture, there really shouldn’t be any impact on Ford’s fantasy outlook with the arrival of Kareem Hunt. At a glance it seems like a depth piece that can immediately come in and help if he’s needed to. Hunt already knows the playbook and has been working out all off-season in hopes to find a new contract – meaning he’s in shape and ready to roll right away. That said, he does sit behind both Ford and Pierre Strong Jr. on the depth chart.
The Browns have a tough matchup against the Titans in Week 3 as Tennessee has consistently found a way to stifle running backs through two weeks. It will be a true test to see if Ford can be even half a effective as Chubb going forward. Fantasy managers can relax though. You didn’t waste your first waiver priority or FAAB on a player who will lose time to a backup. Ford is the guy going forward, Hunt will be here just to help out when his number is called.
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