The Cleveland Browns offense is in an interesting spot heading into the 2022 season. In a sense, they have no idea whether star quarterback Deshaun Watson is going to be playing or not. What they do know is that they have one of the best running back tandems in the league in Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt.
Chubb and Hunt work as more of a 1A/1B duo than a starter and a backup. Chubb will typically get more carries than Hunt, but Hunt usually will get double-digit touches per game as a change of pace back. When Cleveland’s offense is clicking, both guys are stellar fantasy options, making them the most dangerous running back duo in the NFL.
But in 2021, Hunt struggled to stay on the field, meaning that Chubb ended up having to take on most of the burden by himself. Chubb is clearly one of the best running backs in the league, but he continues to split carries with Hunt. Will that change in 2022, and effectively erase Hunt as a valuable fantasy football pick? Let’s look at Hunt’s fantasy outlook for the 2022 season and see what some reasonable expectations are for him.
Kareem Hunt’s 2022 fantasy football outlook
Hunt’s situation heading into the 2022 season is certainly interesting. On one hand, he could almost certainly be the top running back on another team. But instead, he will sit behind Chubb on the depth chart, and make the most of however many touches come his way.
It worked out quite well for Hunt in 2020, who saw more touches fall his way once Chubb was forced to miss time with injuries. Hunt’s numbers during the 2020 campaign (198 CAR, 841 YDS, 6 TD, 38 REC, 304 YDS, 5 TD) showed he was still capable of being a top running back in the league. But then Hunt got injured in 2021, and Chubb established himself as arguably a top five running back in the NFL.
There are so many question marks surrounding Cleveland’s offense currently that it makes it tough to truly project how Hunt’s season could end up going. Aside from all the Watson drama, will coach Kevin Stefanski decide to give Chubb more carries based on how effective he was last season? And even so, what do all the question marks on Cleveland’s offense mean for Hunt in 2022?
Let’s start at quarterback, where Watson’s status figures to have some impact on Hunt’s productivity in 2022. Simply put, if Watson is playing, that makes things easier for Hunt because opposing defenses will have to worry about Cleveland’s passing game. But if Jacoby Brissett ends up under center, opposing defenses will key in on the Browns ground game, and it will be tough for Hunt to find room to run.
Regardless of who is under center, Hunt is going to have to get carries over Chubb, and from a fantasy perspective, counting on that is risky business. It’s worth noting that Hunt got double-digit touches in five of the eight games he played in last season, and Chubb was playing in all but one of those games.
Hunt figures to get carries each game, but it remains to be seen how consistent his volume will be. If he’s getting at least ten carries and catching a couple of passes out of the backfield each game, Hunt is a valuable FLEX option, who has the potential to become an RB2 option if Chubb ends up missing time. Hunt’s ceiling is ultimately limited by Chubb, who he is going to be sitting behind unless something happens to him.
Based on the previous timeshare of snaps we have seen between Hunt and Chubb, Hunt is probably a top 30 running back who could maybe be a FLEX option after the first couple weeks of the season. Figuring out how the Browns offense is going to be run during the first few weeks of the season is going to be crucial to fully understand Hunt’s fantasy outlook.
It’s also worth noting that Hunt’s outlook could change at any given moment due to Watson’s potential suspension. If you use a higher pick on Hunt and then Watson gets suspended, that automatically limits the value of that pick. The amount of different variables surrounding Hunt’s status right now make him a risky player to count on in 2022.
However, Hunt makes sense as an insurance running back off the bench. He shouldn’t really be considered as a draft choice until the later rounds, with the ninth round feelings like the earliest he should go. If Hunt slips into the later rounds, such as the 11th or 12th, that’s when it makes a lot of sense to look into adding him. Kareem Hunt could become a FLEX option later in the season, but he’s too risky to truly be counted on, limiting his value when it comes time to draft.