We often talk of rookie players in the National Football League as having “Boom or Bust” abilities. The Kansas City Chiefs traded up in the third round of this year’s draft to take a running back in small school Kareem Hunt out of Toledo so many fans were immediately wondering about his boom-or-bust-ness… if you will. Since Hunt has already shown he can play with the big boys after three solid preseason outings, it’s time to talk about Kareem Hunt’s boom ability.
First of all, running back coach Eric Bieniemy said this group of running backs was likely his best group and that was two weeks ago prior to the time Spencer Ware was injured:
Running Backs Coach Eric Bieniemy: “This is probably my most talented group” 💯
— Kansas City Chiefs (@Chiefs) August 15, 2017
Having the respect of your running back coach is critical for a rookie coming in and wanting to contribute. There are aspects to Kareem Hunt’s game that stand out. It’s his elusiveness, vision, touch to bring down, and his receiver-like hands. Let’s take those one art a time.
Pro Football Focus has a rating system for elusiveness. They define it as: a runners success beyond of being helped by his blockers. When watching tape on Kareem Hunt in the spring, I noticed his ability to actually sit down low in the hole that was created by his line, then make a move using his powerful thighs. While it somewhat reminded me of Barry Sanders (and I don’t think Kareem Hunt is in his category at all), I don’t believe we’ve seen Hunt display his ability and patience to… sit down in the hole and wait top make up his mind which way he’s going… yet.
Kareem Hunt is making a strong push for playing time with his performances so far this preseason pic.twitter.com/87IJrUvouX
— Pro Football Focus (@PFF) August 25, 2017
Kareem Hunt’s Vision
I watched the play of Kareem Hunt making the wrong decision on “one” play in the Seattle game several times over… and I believe that Hunt saw a defender, a defensive lineman, in that hole leaning that way… so he went into the pile where he often finds a way to wiggle through… but not this time. People are making way to much of that one play. He’s obviously had many other plays that show he does have good vision… which I think he has… and I also think is one of the main reasons JARD moved up and drafted him. There are many other examples of Hunt making the right call about where to head in a hole. Here, Seth Keysor shares a good example of Kareem Hunt’s vision:
First snap of Hunt I've ever seen and he shows my favorite things in a RB: vision and balance. Quick too, then lowers shoulder to finish. pic.twitter.com/AxWYnxB8Dv
— Seth Keysor (@RealMNchiefsfan) April 29, 2017
No one should confuse what I’m saying about Kareem Hunt because I don’t think he’s a perfect running back at all. For instance, he lacks any of the speed that Jamaal Charles had (or any of the other backs that the Chiefs have right now) so he’ll never be confused with a “breakaway runner.” However, there’s more to running a football than speed and we have seen many a running back come and go in NFL who had great speed but none of the other critical qualities needed to become an excellent back. It’s all those other qualities that I believe Kareem Hunt does have… to ONE DAY… become a star in this league.
Being Tough to Bring Down
While Kareem Hunt is not a huge running back with the ability to steamroll defenders, ala Christian Okoye, he does possess great leverage and an understanding of how to lower his pads at the moment of impact, remaining in the downhill position, and then picking up yards after contact. Hunt also twists, as opposed to spinning, when he makes contact, a skill that is undervalued by everyone except running backs. Ask them and I’m sure they will confirm. Hunt also turns around backwards to use his thigh muscles, like he’s lifting a car bumper, at the end of runs. You use a completely different set of muscles and the leverage is batter as well. No, I’m not suggesting that RBs start running backwards… there would never be any break away running backs in that world. However, I have often wondered why they down measure the 20-yards dash running backwards at the NFL Combine, especially for defensive backs.
— Clay Wendler (@ClayWendler) August 19, 2017
There were at least five defenders who had their hands on Kareem Hunt on that play. That not only shows you a running back who is tough to bring down, but one who is tough, period. Which is a little deceiving on his part because to look at him, he has a little bit of that pretty-boy look about him. But, he’s shown us that he is one tough cookie when it comes to bring him down.
Hunt Has Receiver-Like Hands
At Toledo, Kareem Hunt had 41 catches in his senior season for 403 yards. A running back in an Andy Reid offense… gee, I wonder what that might looks like? I can see that Hunt will get split out wide on occasion and once he catches the ball and only has to go through DBs to get to the end zone… well, that should have many happy results for Chiefs fan.
Here (below) is a gif of Hunt catching a long one from Patrick Mahomes in training camp. One happy experience I’ve had repeatedly while covering the Chiefs in training camp is occasionally getting… a glimpse of the future. Mahomes and Hunt. That could turn out to be a formidable duo. Then when you think about Tyreek Hill’s upside, that becomes quite a dynamic trio. The there’s always Kelce… ad nauseam.
A peek at the future. Patrick Mahomes passes up the middle to Kareem Hunt. pic.twitter.com/tn5ZGBJN0T
— Pete Sweeney (@pgsween) August 15, 2017
I’ve been around long enough to see many preseason wonders, turn into regular season flops. I don;t think that will happen to Kareem Hunt but you can never rule out that possibility until you see the skills displayed with your own eyes during the regular season.
Following is a 2:00 minute compilation of every run Kareem Hunt had in the Seattle game along with the Seattle announcing team giving their impressions of the Chiefs rookie running back. Hunt had 9 carries for 39 yards with a 4.3 yards per carry average.
What do you think of the Chiefs third round running back?
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