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Kareem Hunt, D'Ernest Johnson Fantasy Outlook After Nick Chubb's Injury

Mike Chiari@mikechiariFeatured Columnist

Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt warms-up before an NFL football game between the Buffalo Bills and the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Ron Schwane)
Ron Schwane/Associated Press

Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb could be out for up to six weeks with an MCL sprain, per ESPN's Adam Schefter, meaning Kareem Hunt is in line for an expanded role that will yield additional fantasy value while quarterback Baker Mayfield could be impacted as well. 

It's potentially a major loss for Cleveland going forward, though the presence of Hunt means the backfield will be in good hands. Let's take a look at how Hunt, D'Ernest Johnson and Mayfield could be impacted from a fantasy perspective going forward.   

    

Kareem Hunt

Hunt spent his first two NFL seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs and was among the NFL's best backs during that time. As a rookie in 2017, he led the league with 1,327 rush yards and was named to the Pro Bowl.

He also made 53 receptions during his rookie campaign, making him one of the top fantasy running backs from a point-per-reception perspective as well.

Hunt appeared in 11 games for the Chiefs in 2018, registering 824 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground to go along with 26 catches for 378 yards and seven touchdowns.

The Chiefs released Hunt after video showing him pushing and kicking a woman inside a hotel surfaced, and the Browns subsequently signed him knowing he was likely facing a long-term suspension.

Signing Hunt turned out to be a good move from a football perspective since the Browns may now need him to carry the load for as long as Chubb is on the shelf.

Hunt was a dynamic player in a high-powered Chiefs offense that included quarterback Patrick Mahomes, wide receiver Tyreek Hill and tight end Travis Kelce, and he finds himself in a similar situation with the Browns, as Mayfield and wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry give Cleveland one of the NFL's most talented offenses.

With so many big-time players around him, Hunt has a chance to be a fantasy force for as long as Chubb is out of action.

Despite being the No. 2 option behind Chubb last season, Hunt was effective in eight games with 179 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns on 43 carries, plus 37 catches for 285 yards and one score.

While Hunt is almost certainly rostered in your league already, you should jump on him immediately if he isn't. If he is already on your roster, Hunt is a must-start player with the potential to give you RB1 production thanks to his skills as both a runner and pass-catcher.

             

D'Ernest Johnson

It's probably best to consider Johnson a Hunt handcuff at this point, though the Browns did essentially platoon Chubb and Hunt this season and both had fantasy value, so Johnson could see some run. It's worth noting that Johnson had 13 carries for 95 yards against the Cowboys

That might be about the opponent as much as anything else, though:

David Helman @HelmanDC

I'm 100% confident that I didn't say D'Ernest Johnson's name once during the buildup to this game. That ain't on me. He had 1 carry for 5 yards coming into this game. The Dallas defense is just a sieve, basically.

For now, consider Johnson an RB4 worth monitoring with potential flex upside. Hunt is the safest bet out of this backfield, but if Cleveland continues to work a platoon, the undrafted free agent out of South Florida could be a sneaky-good addition at the end of your bench. 

                                  

Baker Mayfield

Mayfield entered 2019 as one of the top fantasy picks at quarterback, but he struggled while totaling 3,827 yards, 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions last season.

During the 2019 offseason, the Browns added Beckham to an offense that already included Landry and tight end David Njoku, giving Mayfield a host of dangerous weapons to utilize.

Chubb is a significant part of Cleveland's offense, but his absence doesn't figure to have a major impact on Mayfield's fantasy value. While Chubb being out may allow the opposition to key on Cleveland's passing game more, Mayfield largely hasn't performed well from a fantasy perspective even with Chubb in the lineup.

If anything, Mayfield's passing volume may go up since head coach Kevin Stefanski could opt to use the short passing game as a replacement for what is lost in the running game without Chubb.

It also seems more likely that the Browns will look to pass in the red zone since Chubb is Cleveland's best option in short-yardage situations.

Mayfield is an iffy start in fantasy with or without Chubb in the lineup, but he is worth considering based on matchups since the offense will likely rest largely on his arm while Chubb is on the shelf. Keep him in the QB2 range. 

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