The 2017 class has been described as the return of the running back. Teams have been excited to get their hands on players like Leonard Fournette, Dalvin Cook, and Christian McCaffrey for years. Now that we are closer to draft day and film has been watched the hype has died down some; but there will still be several backs taken in the first round and probably at least four in the top 50. Whenever the talent pool is so rich, talented players fall in the draft.
One player who may fall but shouldn’t is Kareem Hunt. Hunt has the chance to be an every down back, with special traits that make him the draft’s most underappreciated back.
Balance is a crucial component for running backs. It allows them to be able to get skinny through the hole, bounce off tacklers, and create yards after contact. Hunt can do this as well as any back in the country, and he does it consistently. In his sophomore season Hunt averaged 8 yards per carry, and he finished with 6.3 yards per carry over his career.
Time and time again, he shows the ability to shrug off defenders and not go down. Hunt can put his hand in the ground and regain his balance and get to full speed quickly. Hunt’s lower body strength is evident on tape, at times going on one leg and performing a circus act to stay on his feet.
Hunt also shows off his ability to get “skinny” through the hole. He creates a low center of gravity and makes himself smaller than he is to get through holes and become more difficult to tackle. When a player like Hunt combines his vision and balance to get skinny through the hole, big plays happen. He will be able to consistently turn the slightest crease into a positive play at the next level.
Among draft-eligible backs, Hunt broke the second most tackles in the class, only one behind Cook’s 99, per PFF. He also avoided being tackled on first contact 42% of the time.
Hunt accelerates through tackle attempts, and he can run through arm tackles with ease, rarely losing speed. As discussed earlier, his balance is a huge aspect of his power, but so is his low center of gravity. Hunt runs low to the ground, and combines his power and speed to become a difficult target to take down. Hunt can take advantage of his power anywhere on the field, but with 44 career touchdowns he has shown a special knack for getting in the end zone.
Fumbling is often a flaw with power backs who break a lot of tackles. Backs continue to fight for yardage, exposing the football and often turning it over. This is not an issue for Kareem Hunt as he has just one career fumble on 855 career touches. Looking at the chart below from Scott Barrett of PFF, you can see just how much better he is at holding onto the football than any other back in the class.