Kareem Hunt Start/Sit Week 12: Can you trust him right away?

Kareem Hunt will play in Week 12, but should you start or sit him in fantasy lineups in his first action back from a calf injury?

Fantasy football begins to feel like a slog around Week 11 for me. Most of my fantasy football teams still in the hunt are pretty much on autopilot and through the thick of bye weeks. The ones that are on the fence are much more annoying and are taking a lot more babysitting. On these teams, I’m excited to get Browns RB Kareem Hunt back from a calf injury, but should we start or sit him in Week 12?

Should you start or sit Kareem Hunt in Week 12?

Hunt is coming off of the IR for Cleveland’s matchup against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 12. He’s missed the last five games with a calf injury. In his absence, the Browns have gone 3-2 and are still in the hunt for the division title. They’re excited to get him back, but it’s a little trickier for fantasy.

Kareem Hunt’s first six weeks before a calf injury

Prior to his injury, Hunt had amassed 361 yards on 69 carries for 5.2 yards per carry. That is the sixth-best average for running backs with 50+ carries on the year.

Furthermore, Hunt scored 5 rushing touchdowns and caught 20 of 24 targets for 161 yards. His penchant for TDs and receiving prowess really helped his fantasy value.

In the six games that Hunt played, he averaged 17.4 PPR points per game. That puts him at RB10 on the year on a point-per-game average. He’s just ahead of stud RBs Ezekiel Elliott, D’Andre Swift, and Dalvin Cook. That’s not too shabby for a player who is the RB2 on his own team.

By comparison, Hunt’s teammate, Nick Chubb, has played in eight games of his own. He has 142 carries for 851 yards (6 yards per carry). He’s also caught all 10 of his targets for another 83 yards. Chubb has scored 6 rushing touchdowns and a single receiving touchdown on the year as well. Needless to say, both Browns running backs are very fantasy-relevant.

The Browns love to run the ball

The fact that both Hunt and Chubb have been fantasy stars this year isn’t all that shocking. The Browns have one of the best offensive lines in the game, and their stats through 11 weeks back that up.

Through 11 games, the Browns have rushed for a total of 1,725 yards (156.8 per game). That is the most in the NFL by 38 yards (3.4 more yards per game) over the Philadelphia Eagles. By contrast, the Browns are 25th in passing yards. Clearly, this team is built to run the ball.

Even in the two games that both Hunt and Chubb missed, third-string RB D’Ernest Johnson picked up the slack. He ran for 146 yards in Week 7 against the Broncos and 99 yards in Week 10 against the Patriots. The Browns are so good at running the ball that even their third-string option did well. That says something.

Can you trust Hunt this week?

All that leads us to the obvious question: should we start Hunt in fantasy this week? As usual, there’s no one simple answer.

The Ravens are stout against the run

If the Browns were playing almost anyone else, this might make the answer easier to determine. Unfortunately, Hunt returns to face the third-best team in the NFL against the run. On the year, the Ravens have only allowed 886 rushing yards to their opponents, a meager 88.6 yards per game.

The Ravens are also a fan of running the ball themselves. With each team trying to establish the run, the game could slow down, leading to fewer plays in total for both teams. Fewer plays mean fewer chances for Hunt to break a long one, which he likely needs as the secondary option to Chubb.

I’m avoiding Hunt unless I have no one else

All of this leads me to the final decision that sitting Hunt is probably the smart move this week. Not only is he facing a tough defense, but I can’t imagine the Browns leaning on him heavily in his first week back. If Chubb were hurt, sure, that might make sense. But with what he’s done and what Johnson has shown, there’s no reason to rush Hunt back to a full workload.

This should translate to fantasy lineups as well. If you didn’t start Tony Pollard or Matt Breida on Thursday and are faced with a tough decision combined with a lack of alternatives, then go for it. But I’m likely sitting Hunt wherever I have him, just to see how he adjusts back to full-game speed. There is no reason to get risky at this stage of the season. Of course, if you’re looking for upside, you could do worse than Hunt.

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast!

Listen to the PFN Inside Access Podcast! Click the embedded player below to listen, or you can find the PFN Fantasy Podcast on iTunes, Spotify, and all major podcast platforms.  Be sure to subscribe and leave us a five-star review!

Related Articles