Should You Start Kareem Hunt Vs. Pittsburgh Steelers?

Week 3 of the NFL season kicks off with a Thursday Night Football matchup between the Cleveland Browns and Pittsburgh Steelers. Fantasy football managers have tough roster decisions to make entering the AFC North showdown. So let’s dive into whether you should start Browns running back Kareem Hunt against the Steelers.

Should you start Kareem Hunt vs. the Steelers?

Through two games, the Browns have been exactly as we’d expected: a run-heavy team that barrels through defenses with their elite offensive line and running back talent. They should be 2-0, but a crazy set of events led to a blown win last week against the Jets. Considering their strength of schedule is so challenging until Deshaun Watson returns, the Browns must win Week 3 to keep their playoff hopes alive.

Hunt and Nick Chubb are leading the NFL’s best rushing attack. They rank second in attempts, first in yards, and fourth in yards per carry. They make Jacoby Brissett’s job relatively easy, although there is hyper focus on his misses since he’s not throwing often.

Even with Chubb as RB1 in fantasy stats, Hunt is ranked at RB22 and No. 71 overall in our expert PPR fantasy football rankings. This points towards Hunt being close to a must-play for most fantasy managers. He’s averaged 12 carries and three receptions a game thus far and is a red zone threat.

Our friends at Underdog Fantasy have projected Hunt to have 9.5 rushing attempts, 46.5 rushing yards, and two receptions for 16.5 yards. Based on his usage through two games, Hunt could easily clear the higher total on each of those. The Browns have used him like their third star.

The Steelers’ defense has been below average against running backs through two games, allowing the third-most receiving yards to the position. They’ve done well to limit offenses to 4.0 yards per carry, but Cleveland will certainly test their ability to withstand a devastating ground game. Being without T.J. Watt may be the difference for the Steelers.

Expect an ugly game plan that relies upon a handful of busted runs or misdirection that frees a receiver into space. Hunt is perfect for that role because of his fantastic ability to catch the ball. I’ve often said Cleveland has underused Hunt and should use him as a slot receiver when he’s not in the backfield because he’s that talented.

With seven carries and one target in the red zone so far, Hunt is a highly valuable fantasy play. The only reason you should not start him is if you have two great backs and a strong flex option with a weaker matchup. Otherwise, Hunt is a terrific starter every week.

The best case for managers is Chubb sees fewer red zone touches in Week 3 than he did in Week 2. Cleveland rewarded Chubb for his strong performance by refusing to rotate Hunt in as often as they did in Week 1. Still, Hunt was a fine play. We’re happy to see a medium between the first two weeks as long as Hunt gets targets or red zone touches.

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