In this age of instant access, text alerts and 24 hour a day rumor mills, NFL fans are rarely taken by surprise. Earlier today, fans and specifically the dynasty fantasy football community was stunned by the news surrounding running back Kareem Hunt. Notice I didn’t say Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt. That’s right, in case you’ve been completely out of touch today, the Kansas City Chiefs plan to waive their star back Hunt after entertainment website TMZ released a video showing a February altercation in which Hunt assaulted a 19-year old woman.
Back in February, a report surfaced that a young woman had accused Hunt of “shoving and pushing” her. No charges were filed. While we’ve now learned the Chiefs investigated that event, including speaking with Hunt, there was little more information reported publicly after that. Essentially, we ignored it. As we’ve seen in the past with players like Ray Rice and Joe Mixon, video evidence changes everything. Even in the past couple of weeks, linebacker Reuben Foster was claimed after being arrested and subsequently waived by the 49ers. There was no video, as far as we know, of the Foster incident.
As we always have at DLF, we will focus on the dynasty impact the off-field events have on the players involved and reserve the passing of judgment for others. Obviously, this does not mean we condone Hunt’s actions, but our purpose is dynasty-centric.
Kareem Hunt, RB KC
There are so many questions surrounding Hunt and how he should be valued in dynasty leagues moving forward. Clearly, there will be a major loss in value. Personally, I quickly moved him from RB8 to RB18 in my dynasty rankings and could easily see him falling further as we learn more. With Hunt now part of the waiver system, teams will have a chance to claim him and his cheap rookie contract. As I mentioned earlier, Foster was recently claimed but the Washington Redskins took a huge amount of public criticism for that move. Their choice will serve as a warning to avoid a similar fate for some teams, while others might see it as a precedent being set, giving themselves permission to “take a chance” on Hunt.
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Here’s a quick response of what the community thinks, based on an informal Twitter poll I created.
As you can see, with nearly 2,300 votes, the slight majority expect Hunt to be claimed, though this might as well be a 50/50 split. Given the timing and the standing of the player involved, this is unprecedented. None of us really know what to expect next. I think it is fruitless to project which NFL teams might be willing to claim Hunt on waivers but some I have seen bandied about include the Raiders, Redskins and Bills. Again, who knows.
Prior to being waived by the Chiefs, Hunt was placed on the Commissioner’s exempt list. This is essentially the NFL’s version of a time out corner. Until he’s removed from that list, Hunt won’t play for any team and that likely won’t happen until after the NFL season. Whether Hunt is claimed via waivers or simply signs with a new team this off-season likely doesn’t matter to fantasy players. I don’t think we should expect to see him on the field for the remainder of the 2018 season.
The list of players who didn’t get a second chance in the league, regardless of the level of accusations against them is a very short one. Ray Rice is the only one that comes to mind and I think a lot of that has to do with being an aging and ineffective player. I do think we see Hunt play again in the league. For that reason, I would suggest dynasty owners look at this as an opportunity to buy, not sell, the troubled player. By the way, I noticed some suggesting they would outright cut Hunt from their team. While I wouldn’t suggest that, if that is what your conscience tells you to do, I can get behind it.
So, if you’re buying Hunt, what is an acceptable price? I expect the value to be all over the price given both the high level of production we’ve seen from Hunt along with the heinous nature of what was shown in the released video. Some dynasty owners might not be willing to take a discount at all, while others will literally take anything they can get. Until we learn more, I see the typical price falling around a late first round rookie pick. Whether I was a buyer or a seller, this is the value I would consider.
One final note on Hunt’s in limbo value. All season long, dynasty owners have been discounting holdout running back Le’Veon Bell for many reasons. One of those has been the assumption he would be playing for a new team in 2019 and no matter which team that might be, it is unlikely it would be as good of a situation as Bell had in Pittsburgh. Although under vastly different circumstances, this is now true of Hunt. Even if we assume Hunt is a lock to see the field in 2019, his situation is likely to be a downgrade from what he’s had in Kansas City.
Let’s look at some of the other players who will, or could be, impacted by this news.
Spencer Ware, RB KC
In 2016, Chiefs running back Spencer Ware was one of the pleasant surprises in the league. He was forced into a starting role as longtime starting back Jamaal Charles missed time with injuries. Ware responded with nearly 1,400 yards from scrimmage, good for an RB17 finish on the season. Even after the team drafted Hunt, Ware entered training camp as the starter before suffering a season-ending knee injury in a preseason game – that gave Hunt the job and he held onto it, until now. Ware has served as a solid backup this season and has produced when given opportunity. He posted weekly fantasy finishes of RB22, RB18 and RB35 in three of his past five games on limited touches.
Ware has already been announced as the starter and we’ve seen him succeed in this system before. With one of the best quarterbacks in the league and pass catchers Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce thriving, this entire offense is in a better place than it was when Ware was the bell cow back two long years ago. Ware should be locked into all lineups as we head towards the fantasy playoffs.
The future is up in the air for Ware, who will become a free agent following the season. The popular assumption had been he would look to move on in hopes of finding a larger role and more playing time. Now, he might not need to go anywhere to do that. It’s important to remember that this same coaching staff already made the decision to upgrade over Ware once. Whether they settle on Ware or chase a bigger name, Kansas City will be active in the running back market this off-season.
Damien Williams, RB KC
Veteran running back Damien Williams has seen action in eight games this season, totaling three rush attempts and three receptions. Williams was one part of Miami’s backfield committee in 2016, finishing as the RB52 on the season. He’s now second on the depth chart behind Ware and one injury away from a very significant role for the final few weeks of the season. Williams has no long-term dynasty value but should be added in any league with more than 23 roster spots per team.
Darrel Williams, RB KC
Darrel Williams, an undrafted rookie from LSU, has yet to play an offensive snap in the league but he is now listed as third on the depth chart. With a potential long playoff run on the line, we shouldn’t expect the Chiefs to get cute with unproven players like Williams though he should certainly be plucked off deep dynasty league waiver wires just in case.
At 6’0” and 225 pounds, Williams is a powerful back and a favorite of Matt Waldman, author of the annual Rookie Scouting Portfolio. Waldman liked Williams’ strength and decision-making as a runner and expected him to earn a roster spot in the league. Waldman also pointed out Williams’ impressive ability as a pass-catcher, something we know Reid values among his backs.
Jamaal Charles and CJ Anderson, RBs FA
These two veterans could get a call from the Chiefs depending how they truly feel about their depth pieces mentioned above. The Chiefs coaching staff is very familiar with both veteran free agents. Obviously, Charles was a key member of the Chiefs for years, playing for current head coach Andy Reid. As the former starter for division-rival Denver, the Chiefs coaching staff is quite familiar with veteran CJ Anderson as well. We don’t even know if the team will add a free agent back but these are a couple of players to keep an eye on moving forward.
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