The Browns Backfield in 2019

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an article by Angel Maldonado

Before OBJ, The Browns pulled an absolute shocker earlier in the off-season signing controversial Running Back Kareem Hunt. It wasn’t shocking to see Kareem Hunt signed to an NFL team. No matter what the league says, it will always tolerate off the field concern and violence if the talent level is there. The NFL has never been a moral compass and, unless something drastically changes, never will be. What was, however, extremely shocking was that out of all the teams in the NFL, it was the Browns that gave Kareem Hunt a chance. With star rookie running back Nick Chubb finishing just 4 yards shy of 1,000 in less than a full season, there was seemingly no reason for the Browns to take a risk on Kareem Hunt. Yet, John Dorsey decided to sign the running back anyways. Why did Dorsey take this risk?

John Dorsey was one of the men responsible for turning around the culture in Cleveland. Sound familiar? He once revived a dead franchise in Kansas City as well. In fact, it was Dorsey who drafted Kareem Hunt in  the third round of the 2017 NFL Draft. Hunt, of course, proceeded to become one of the best running backs in the league and finished as the leading rusher in 2017. Hunt was well on his way to another RB1 season in Kansas City until a video of an altercation with a woman surfaced right before the playoffs. The Chiefs, in a surprising move, quickly released Kareem Hunt and condemned his actions. Hunt was left on waivers for the entirety of the 2018 season, but there was little doubt that a team somewhere would give him a shot.

In hindsight, it isn’t surprising that John Dorsey decided to give Kareem Hunt a “second shot.” Dorsey did, after all, give Tyreek Hill a second chance after Hill beat his then pregnant girlfriend. The connection and precedent was there. The Browns already had a logjam at running back, a logjam that got even more crowded with the addition of Kareem Hunt. Still, in a city that has historically starved for talent, more talent at any position is a plus in Cleveland.

But what are the fantasy implications of this move?

2019 Fantasy Implications

Nick Chubb

From a fantasy perspective, this would seemingly be a frustrating landing spot for fans of Nick Chubb. The Kareem Hunt move, however, will not impact Chubb for a while, as Hunt will likely serve an extensive suspension for his actions. But, I hear you saying, won’t Chubb have to split carries with Hunt in the fantasy playoffs when it matters most? Possibly, but that is unlikely. Hunt will serve an 8 game suspension. That would be 2-3 months away from the team and away from football. By the time he’s back, he will need a few weeks to get back in game shape and truly impact Chubb’s carries. The news of Hunt’s signing will likely drive down Chubb’s ADP a little, offering a bargain for those willing to snag Chubb as a RB2 for their squad. St worst, this could develop into a Mark Ingram-Alvin Kamara type backfield. Regardless of what happens, worry about the first 8 weeks of the season, then worry about the playoffs. Chubb will reward his owners in 2019.

Kareem Hunt

Kareem Hunt is not an NFL backup running back. He is one of the most talented players in the league with automatic RB1 potential no matter where he is. Still, Hunt’s actions should result in a lengthy, deserved suspension that will keep him from making a major impact in 2019. If he is suspended for 12 weeks, what are the odds that he comes back in game shape? Not great. Hunt will likely be drafted by that one person in your league that also held Greg Olsen for 8 weeks last year, so let them. Your resources are better spent elsewhere in 2019. In 2020 though… look out. This backfield would have Saints levels of production, with Hunt taking the Kamara workload and Chubb taking the Ingram workload. But, in 2019, don’t expect Hunt to be at all relevant.

Duke Johnson

Duke Johnson though? He just got shafted. Yikes. He was already in Fantasy purgatory… now he’s in fantasy hell. When Hunt is back Johnson will likely be relegated to a couple of touches per game… so nothing out of the norm. Still, a low blow for a player that has always made the most out of his touches. Barring injury, Johnson is a RB4/5 for 2019… unless he is traded. It’s been reported that Duke Johnson has requested a trade from the Browns. It’s a sensible request given that when he signed a 3 Year, 15 Million contract he expected to be a bigger part of the offense. If he lands with a team in need of a RB he could turn into a solid flex play. Perhaps he replaces Sproles in Phily? Johnson is a good buy low candidate now in Dynasty Formats as his uncertain future gives him a low risk, high reward upside.

On the surface, Hunt to the Browns didn’t make much sense and seemed to spell doom for Chubb enthusiasts. In season long leagues, draft Chubb with confidence as a RB2 and enjoy his value. Dynasty owners: R-E-L-A-X. Chubb is too talented to be relegated to a backup role and he will be just fine in 2019 and beyond. Even if Hunt and Chubb split carries, they’ll both get 15+ touches per game, allowing them to be effective options on the field and in fantasy. The Browns haven’t been relevant in either fantasy football or the NFL in a long time. That’s beginning to change and the Browns backfield will be a big part of that.

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