You all know the big name running backs atop this year’s draft rankings such as: Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey etc. Something that isn’t talked about as much is the tremendous depth at the position in the middle rounds. A lot of teams are going to bypass the RB position on Days 1 and 2 and instead go for value picks later on.
Kareem Hunt could prove to be the top “value pick” out of the backfield when we look back on the 2017 draft class. Hunt finished his four year career at Toledo as the program’s all-time leading rusher after tallying 4,945 yards on the ground while averaging an astounding 6.3 yards per carry. He was the definition of steady producer for the Rockets. Coming out of high school, he was even a finalist for “Mr. Ohio”, a very prestigious honor in the Buckeye State.
Sometimes, and in most cases, production doesn’t always translate to success in the NFL. Hunt runs the ball with a purpose and possesses arguably the most balance of any back in the league, but how does he project as a running back at the next level?
Name: Kareem Hunt
Draft Grade: Late 3rd Round-Early 4th Round
Positives: Runs with extreme effort and balance. When you think the play is over, you’ll see the pile continue to push forward. Never stops churning his feet. Stays on his feet despite marginal contact. Physical runner who racks up yards after contact. His effort and ability to stay upright through traffic is admirable. Displays good burst through clear, inside seams. Good acceleration and can get to top gear quickly when in space. Resets to the outside if there’s no openings up the middle. Compact runner with good strength. Sets up with good positioning when trucking over defenders. Good goal-line option and can barrel/leap into the endzone. Strong stiff arm and can pull away from defenders. Sound, reliable pass catcher out of the backfield and scarcely drops a pass. Recognizes when no blitz is coming and will smartly run out for a pass if no one rushes the QB. Can make guys miss in the open-field with nifty cuts. Spins off leg tackles. Quick feet and steady body control. Secures the football when he runs and fumbled just once during his entire college career, dating back to his freshman season. Viable speed, faster to the outside. Possesses a good blend of power, strength and quickness as a one-cut runner. Productive college player. Senior Bowl/Combine participant.
Negatives: Lacks game-breaking speed. Sometimes will lunge into traffic on inside runs instead of bouncing to open holes on the outside. Doesn’t have “quick vision” off delayed runs and is slow off the transfer. Too eager to make a play happen at times and will run backwards trying to gain separation, resulting in extra yards lost. Very unorthodox as a pass blocker and will often drop his head forcefully which could potentially lead to concussions. Too much bend and gets too low when absorbing blitzers. Fails to get consistent separation after the catch and in his routes out of the backfield. Doesn’t always try to sell play-action. Carried the ball a lot at Toledo and racked up a lot of miles in the process. Suspended for one game in 2015 due to “violation of team policies” but the reason was not released publicly – shouldn’t be anything to concern over. Missed 3 games in 2014 due to an ankle sprain but doesn’t have an extended injury history. Lack of competition in the MAC may be a concern to some scouts.
Outlook: I was pleasantly surprised when I watched Kareem Hunt. I thought he would be one of the many productive college RBs who just didn’t standout on film. His best traits are by far his effort and balance. Both of which teams are sure to respect and fall in love with. There aren’t many backs you’ll see run harder than him or possess the ability to stay on his feet through contact and traffic. Hunt is a one-cut runner who can be a reliable depth back in the NFL. He never fumbles and is a dependable pass catcher. Hunt isn’t the most flashy RB in the 2017 draft, but he gets the job done and you know what you’re getting with him. In a rich RB class, he should go in the 3rd-4th round range.