Cleveland designated Hunt this week to return from IR, and it sounds like he has a shot to face the Ravens this Sunday.
“We’ll see how practice goes, and I’ll make sure I’m feeling great and be able to go out there and give it my all,” he said, according to Cleveland.com’s Mary Kay Cabot.
Hunt’s last game of action came with no Nick Chubb (calf injury). Over the previous 5 weeks with Chubb, Hunt averaged 11 carries and 4.2 targets -- with healthy rates of 5.4 yards per rush and 8.76 yards per reception.
He’ll return to an offense that desperately needs the backfield to control things. Cleveland has a Week 13 bye, then a Baltimore rematch followed by clashes with the Raiders, Packers and Steelers.
Hunt is the only RB2 that plays like an RB1 in the NFL and for fantasy. Through Week 5 Hunt has 5 TDs on just 55 attempts. That 9% TD rate only trails James White and Kenneth Gainwell for all RBs on the season. This TD rate is probably not sustainable, but it just goes to show that Hunt continues to get the high value touches in this offense. On top of his red zone usage, Hunt continues to see steady pass game work. In Week 5 Hunt saw 6 targets, catching 5 for 28 yards. This pass game role should help Hunt keep his PPR value afloat even on weeks when he doesn’t find the end zone.
Hunt has a unique role in this offense as the Browns run so much that they can keep 2 RBs afloat. Hunt was outproduced by Nick Chubb on the day 105 to 86 in yardage, but Hunt had 4 targets and found the end zone. Finding the end zone is starting to become a coin flip between the two RBs as they have split work 4 to 3 in carries inside the 5. A key example of this is prior to Hunt scoring his TD, Chubb had a few goal line looks of his own on the same drive.
Heading into Week 5, the matchup vs. the Chargers looks solid for both RBs. The great news for Hunt owners is if the Browns fall behind to the Chargers, Hunt will be the preferred passing down back. This makes Hunt a solid flex play.
Hunt had exactly the kind of game in Week 3 that you’re hoping for from him. He tallied 10 carries in a game the Browns controlled most of the day. And his 7 targets ranked 2nd on the team, in the 1st game since Jarvis Landry went down.
The keys to his fantasy success were 6 catches for 74 yards and an excellent 30-yard TD run to open the 4th quarter. Landry’s absence for at least 2 more games should help Hunt’s target counts. But let’s not lose sight of the fragility in his role.
Even in a 20-point victory, Hunt garnered less then half the carries Nick Chubb collected (22). It’s also worth noting that Demetric Felton drew 3 targets before Hunt’s 1st touch.
The opportunities Hunt got were also concentrated. We didn’t see Hunt until the Browns’ 3rd possession, when he took over the backfield for 2 catches and 3 carries (1 of those negated by a penalty). Hunt showed back up after the 2-minute warning of the 1st half, getting another 4 targets and 1 rushing attempt in that timeframe. Hunt also collected 5 carries on a mid-4th quarter drive that came with Cleveland up 23-6.
None of this is meant to discredit Hunt’s Week 3 production or value going forward. He’s in a position where winning handily can increase his carries, while falling behind can drive up his target count. Just keep the variance built into Hunt’s role in mind the next time he endures a dud -- as well as when you’re making weekly lineup decisions.
Nick Chubb continues to outperform Hunt on the ground, out-gaining him 95-51, but it is notable that they evenly split carries on the week. In a close game, Hunt received 13 carries to only 11 for Chubb. This does include 3 carries to close out the game, but still a 11 to 10 split is notable in a close one. The issue for Hunt is his pass game role has been limited in games when the Browns are competitive or up big. This makes Hunt tough to trust as when he doesn’t find the end zone, he really hurts your fantasy team.
In Week 3 the Browns face the Bears, who haven’t allowed much production to the RB position in the pass game so far in 2021. Overall, this might not be the game to play Hunt, but if you think rookie QB Justin Fields will struggle in his first start then maybe the Browns run away with it which should lead to more production for Hunt.
Hunt rushed 6 times for 33 yards and 1 TD, hauling in all 3 of his targets for 28 yards in Cleveland's Week 1 loss to Kansas City.
Hunt also added a 2-point conversion from 1 yard out after the Browns’ opening TD, which gave them an 8-0 lead. Hunt is a talented RB and was able to produce a decent fantasy game, but it will be difficult to do so going forward with starting RB Nick Chubb dominating the touches in the Browns backfield (17 to 8).
Hunt should be considered a RB3 or flex option but has a tremendous matchup in Week 2 against the Texans as 12.5-point home favorites.