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New Chief Kareem Hunt film review: Shaking fools

One wonderful thing about not following college football is that whenever the Kansas City Chiefs draft someone outside the first or second round (the people who everyone talks about), I don’t know a thing about him.

I consider this a good thing because it allows me to review someone’s film without having any kind of preconceived notions about a player. The simple fact of the matter is that when we hear something about someone long enough, it will inevitably color our thinking about said person (for example, people think Patrick Mahomes’ footwork makes him inaccurate because they’ve heard it a million times, even though the film doesn’t reflect that. But I digress).

Toledo RB Kareem Hunt is no exception for me. When the Chiefs called his name in the third round I knew absolutely nothing about what kind of running back he is (speed, power, etc.), so I went straight to Draft Breakdown to watch his available film to decide whether I liked the pick or not.

And frankly, I was surprised in all the right ways.

I just watched our new running back kill a man Spencer Ware style, and loved every second of it.

Quick note, I’m reviewing Hunt rather than second round pick Tanoh something-or-other (I’ll learn to spell his name when I write his film review, I promise) due to popular request on Twitter. After watching some of his games, I can see why people were rushing to tell me I’d love this guy.

Let’s talk about running backs before we really get going. For me, the absolute most important trait a running back can possess is vision: the ability to set up and follow blockers while getting to open space effectively and alter angles potential tacklers are taking. This skill is absolutely essential if you want to be a good running back (see Knile Davis for an example of what happens when you lack this trait).

After vision, I value balance, elusiveness (quickness, NOT speed), ability to shake tacklers, power, and speed in some order. If a guy possesses some of these traits he doesn’t necessarily need to possess the rest. But he better have at least some of them. And from what I can see, Kareem Hunt absolutely does.

With regards to vision, Hunt definitely seems to possess this all-important trait.

Here, Hunt appears to be heading towards the gap between the C and RG, following the pulling LG (this is all an educated guess based on what the blockers were doing). However, the gap closes almost as soon as the LG makes it through the hole, leaving Hunt with a few options: try and go through the gap between the RG and RT, which has a defender flashing his helmet towards that side, try and bounce it outside, or find another hole.

A lot of running backs wouldn’t recognize that 62, even though he’s blocked, is at least partly in position to stop a cutback between the RG and RT and would go there. Even more running backs (particularly at the college level) would just bounce it outside and try to get to the edge. Instead Hunt recognizes another hole opening up between the LT and where the LG just vacated due to the linebacker blitzing around the outside. So he cuts back, let’s the block develop (gets hung up in the scrum for a second) and then explodes through the hole.

I love that decision by Hunt, and the fact that he made it in a split second makes it even better. Running backs HAVE to be able to decide in the blink of an eye what the best direction to go is. Again, you can either do that or you can’t. Hunt demonstrates time and again he’s got that quick decision-making down.

Additionally, Hunt demonstrates some real elusiveness once he hits the open field. He shakes the incoming defender with a really nice juke that leaves the poor guy looking like he got shot. That earns an extra 3-4 yards all on its own. THEN, when Hunt sees that he’s not in a position to shake the next incoming tackler, he lowers his shoulder and makes sure to fall forward for an extra couple of yards.

This isn’t a play that was well blocked, but Hunt’s vision, elusiveness and willingness to deliver a hit instead of take one resulted in a nice gain. His ability to shake tacklers and keep churning in particular result in a full 7 yards or so getting gained where other RB’s may not have.

And that fighting for extra yards is something you’ll see time and again with Hunt.

There’s not much to say about this snap other than he’s initially hit over 5 yards short of the first down marker but gets there anyway. I absolutely love that in a running back. Despite the fact that he’s not a huge RB (my understanding is his ideal weight is 215 pounds), he’s very strong and often appears to be delivering hits instead of taking them. Lower body strength in a running back combined with a “I’m not down yet” attitude often results in five yards instead of 2-3. And that matters a great deal over the course of the game.

Something I constantly look for in college running backs is how they do when their blocking isn’t great. NFL defenses are just so much better, and holes close so fast at this level, that many RB’s who looked good in college just can’t adjust.

Again, Hunt seems to be able to succeed independent of blocking.

This is a disaster of a snap from the offensive line. Hunt is about to get killed in the backfield, but instead somehow gains 10 yards. That’s some voodoo stuff right there.

Hunt basically demonstrates all the traits I’ve already talked about again here. He recognizes that things have gone wrong immediately, spins out of trouble, stays on his feet and accelerates quickly as he regains his balance, avoids ANOTHER tackler, then lowers his head and gains an extra couple yards at the end of the run.

If I were to describe what it feels like to play against Hunt as a linebacker or secondary player, I’d call it annoying, or maybe awful.

Once again, Hunt finds the correct hole, explodes through it, shakes a tackler, and then makes the secondary player pay for bringing him down. Sure, the guy made the play, but you can bet your last buck that he’ll remember what it felt like to tackle Hunt after that play. This kind of thing can wear defenses out over time and even cause split-second hesitation in corners that don’t like to hit. I love the idea of Hunt and Ware just punishing defenses over the course of a full game.

Another thing of note with Hunt is that over the course of his college career he only had one fumble. That’s fantastic in and of itself, but when you combine it with his running style it becomes even more impressive. The downside to fighting for extra yards is that late-arriving defenders will always, always, ALWAYS try to strip the ball. While Hunt will need to be cautious in the pros where players are much more adept at this, his ability to be a powerful tackler-breaker while protecting the ball is impressive.

With regards to his ability as a receiver, Hunt doesn’t necessarily pop in his route running, but his hands seem reliable and his ability to make things happen in space is very impressive.

Hunt watches the ball into his hands (a small thing but something I appreciate, considering how many RBs drop easy passes by running before catching), immediately turns up the field and just starts doing what he does. I think he’ll be an asset in the passing game enough to get on the field in those situations.

As a pass blocker (crucial in the NFL), Hunt has a tendency to lower his head, which is a major no-no. However, he is a very willing blocker and has the strength to stonewall linebackers with a head of steam. Those two traits ought to lead to him being a very good blocker with just a bit of coaching.

The biggest concern I’ve had people voice to me about Hunt is his speed. I can tell you right now, Hunt is not a a speed back. However, he’s not a plodder either.

Hunt’s top-end speed, again, isn’t particularly fast. But it’s JUST fast enough to get by, and he accelerates pretty well. His lack of elite speed/quickness is made up for by how decisively he runs and how quickly he seems to process the field and make decisions. Personally, I’m not one bit worried about Hunt’s game speed. I think he’s got more than enough to get the job done.

Overall, I was really happy with what I saw from Hunt. I think he’s a guy who will push for snaps sooner rather than later, especially given his ability to make something out of nothing and make the most out of what blocking he does get. I think he’ll add another dimension of tough running to go along with Ware, who already makes teams miserable with how he plays, while West and Spiller will fight it out to be the speed back (I fully expect West to win that battle).

A nice pick by Dorsey here addressing a potential position of need. I’m excited to see what he does.

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