The Kareem Hunt Fallout
On the Friday before Week 13 really got underway, with the Dallas Cowboys defense putting up a great performance against a team many had picked to go to the Superbowl still fresh on everyone’s mind. Another team with Superbowl aspirations was forced into the spotlight as a very unfortunate incident was brought to the forefront. The team that resides at Arrowhead Stadium chose to release their star second-year running back. Whether public outcry forced their hand or the Chiefs brass thought it a no-brainer, I don’t know. I’m not here to describe what happened or go into the rights and wrongs of it. I’m here to tell you about the fallout this will have on the Kansas City Chiefs team on the field.
If you haven’t already heard or seen what happened by now just click on the radio, tv or computer and it won’t take you long to find out. I would like to say that in no way am I condoning Hunt’s actions or trying to be insensitive to the woman involved. I’m just going to “Stay in my lane” so to speak. So what’s next for the Chiefs moving forward…
What The Chiefs Will Be Without Moving Forward
So what’s next for this Chiefs offensive machine we’ve come accustomed to seeing. Losing a pro bowl running back is not something you just easily adjust too. No matter how much people think they don’t matter, you will never convince me that any old back can do what the former Chiefs back could for them.
The Workload And Production
Hunt was commanding a massive workload. A 73.9% snap share which was eighth in the league, an 80.9% opportunity share (seventh), 181 carries (sixth), 35 targets (22nd, 32 since the start of Week 4), and 26 receptions with 25 of them coming since the start of Week 4. In this day and age, you don’t have to carry the ball as much as Zeke to be considered a workhorse and hunt had been just that for KC this season. Few backs are given as much opportunity.
Hunt had turned all that work into 824 rushing yards (fifth) and 378 receiving yards (11th) with 14 total touchdowns (third). That was good enough for the fifth best running back in standard scoring and eighth in PPR. Like I said earlier, this is not just plug and play. Hunt was the starter and commanded such a huge load because he is better then what else they have behind him.
The second-year back was able to gain all those yards and score all those time with the help of 5.8 yards per touch. Good enough for 14th in the league, He had 11 breakaway runs with 57 evaded tackles and 324 yards created. All good enough for top seven in the league. Now it is important to remember that Hunt was given much of this opportunity because the Chiefs have scored a league-high 36.7 points a game. This is important because Andy Reid will grind the clock down with a big lead at the end of a game. At the same time, Hunt is a big part of why they score so many points. Again, not just a quick fix but one that the actions of the second year player have put the Chiefs in the position to need to address.
The Offense Moving Forward
So this is the kind of thing that can affect the way an entire offense works in a normal situation. Luckily for the KC faithful, the GM and coaching staff have put the right guys in place for success here. It also doesn’t hurt that their head coach is one of the smartest and most innovative offensive minds in the league. Andy Reid, clock management issues aside, has generally been able to find a way to get his guys in the right situations to put up points. The running back as you can see below has always been an important part of what he likes to do and fantasy owners more often than not, come away happy.
Spencer Ware And The Running Game
So where better to start. The man who most expects to take over the RB1 role the Kansas City Chiefs, Spencer Ware is coming into a fantastic situation for a running back. As we’ve seen already he has shown a little bit this year. Albeit in a backup role. Ware has received 17 targets and caught 14 of them. He has nine red zone touches. He has an 8.0 yard per touch average an 13 evaded tackles. Ware also did have a top 20 finish two years ago with this same team. The roster has changed but the coach and philosophy haven’t.
Ware started out very strong in 2016. In the first six games of that season, he was averaging 15.8 rushing attempts for 82 yards a game with 2.5 receptions and another 47.5 yards a game and three total touchdowns. In Week 7 of that season, Ware suffered a concussion that knocked him out of the game early and forced him to miss the following game. When he returned, the running back just wasn’t the same. After his return, Ware averaged just 58.6 yards rushing actually more a game than before. He averaged 16 attempts a game and 2.3 receptions for 19.1 yards. The opportunity stayed exactly the same (18.3 total touches per game), but his efficiency dramatically dropped.
Could this possibly be lingering effects from the concussion or did he maybe just wear down as the grind of the season hit and he saw a much larger workload then he had ever seen? Neither should come into play as the season winds down. Obviously, concussions can happen at any time but I’m not in the business of predicting injury.
Assuming Ware takes the role everyone expects him so he should be a Backend RB1. Even if bassed off the opportunity alone. There are a couple other running backs we will need to monitor moving forward. Darrell and Damien Williams (Not related) will be assuming the backup roles. If Ware fails to produce or does fall due to injury, one of these players could take a prominent role. They can also look to claim someone off waivers for the remainder of the year. Moving forward they will most definitely be looking to add through the Draft or free agency after the season ends.
The Chiefs second-year quarterback has been greater then anyone could have imagined this year. Mahomes is averaging 24 completions a game on 35.5 attempts for 329.8 yards (16 game pace of 5,277 yards). He’s not just about the yards though. No sir. Mahomes is on pace for 54 touchdowns this year. Oh yeah, throw in three touchdowns on the ground (On Pace for 57 total TDS). A good portion of that work went to the running backs. Ware might not have the receiving chops that the former starter possess but he can catch the ball. He should be a reliable check-down asset and be effective in the screen game. It will be interesting to see if Reid is willing to send him up the seem and on wheel routes as much as they did before this happened.
Mahomes has been unbelievable through the air so far this year. It’s funny to look back at the Draft two seasons ago and think that teams that needed help at the position passed on this guy. Luckily for the chief’s, they didn’t and the faith they showed is paying off. The second-year quarterback is leading the league in deep balls thrown, fifth in red zone attempts and Air yards. Add that up and he’s third in the league in yards per attempt (9.3). This has all added up to 37 touchdowns which leads the league. Defenses won’t have to worry about the running game quite as much. Ware isn’t so much of a downgrade that teams will be able to ignore him.
The one aspect of Mahomes game he has yet to really show is his running ability. As you can see to the left, coming out of Texas Tech he wasn’t looked at as an ultra-fast quarterback. He does have some decent acceleration. Mahome was an effective runner though because of his shiftiness and agility. This is something the Chiefs have yet to really utilize. They could call a few designed runs for Mahomes if they’re having trouble elsewhere. This would only increase the value of the number one fantasy QB and overall player.
The Receiving game
As I stated before teams will be able to focus a little more on the passing game. But as I also sated Spencer Ware is no slouch. He is a solid NFL back with a hell of an opportunity. The biggest boost might go to the pass catchers though. Depending on game flow the main target hogs could see a few extra targets a week. Here’s How the targets were being distributed before Week 13.
Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, And The Rest
These are the two players outside of the running game that should see the biggest boost to their value. Tyreek Hill is used in very creative ways On screens and other short routes, just trying to get the ball in his hands. That’s not to say they still won’t go bombs away on the regular, But Hunt was a big part of what they do in the passing game and he is highly efficient when he catches the ball. Ware isn’t quite the athlete so they may look to use Hill a little more in the situations they would have used Hunt. Hill is also a very dangerous threat in the running game when the Chiefs get him on the edge and in space.
Travis Kelce should also see a little more usage in the short passing game. He is a load to try and bring to the ground. Andy Reid could try and also find a few more creative ways to get the ball into Kelce’s hands. Reid has never been shy about running a crazy play near the goal line resulting in a tight end or linemen running or passing for a score. Although that has lessened this year, it can happen at any time.
Look for both Kelce and Hill to see a slight bump on their 25.8% (Kelce), and 24.04% (Hill) respective target shares.
The rest of the weapons in the passing game can be useful any given week. It’s not something you’re going to want to rely on though. Even Sammy Watkins when he has been on the field has not been a reliable weapon. Then throw in the fact that he is constantly banged up and it’s tough to trust him at all. Chris Conley and Demarcus Robinson are the only other two receivers logging any significant snaps. Without an injury or some sort of other unforeseen circumstance, I don’t see them doing anything trustworthy this year for you.
For now, it’s a cast of four. Patrick Mahomes, Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and the newest member, Spencer Ware. When we look at the Chiefs upcoming schedule…
- 13 @ Oakland
- 14 vs Baltimore
- 15 vs LAC
- 16 @ Seattle
- 17 vs Oakland
… there are a couple tough matchups but there hasn’t been a team lately that has been able to slow this offense down. Baltimore will be their toughest test but they get them at home. Going up to Seattle in fantasy championship might prove difficult as Mahomes has never heard the sound of Quest Field, the home of the Seahawks. It has rattled a few more than capable quarterbacks in games past. Mahomes though has seemed pretty unflappable so far. We will see how it plays out moving forward.