Just two years ago, Kareem Hunt was on the fast track to superstardom with the Kansas City Chiefs. Then he wasn't. The former third-round pick was the league's leading rusher as a rookie (1,327 yards) and, in 2018, on his way to another 1,000-plus yard campaign in Kansas City's high-flying offense before the video of him physically assaulting a woman surfaced and resulted in his immediate release from the team. Hunt signed with the Cleveland Browns last season, served an eight-game suspension, and played well upon his return to the field but found himself squarely behind Nick Chubb on the depth chart. Hunt was an elite back before his transgression, so strictly from an on-field perspective, let's pinpoint who's next.
My pick to be the next Hunt on the field is Bills runner Devin Singletary, another former third-round pick. Josh Jacobs and Miles Sanders received most of the notoriety among rookie running backs in 2019. I understood it; both were really good. But Singletary quietly pieced together a strong campaign of his own. Efficient is the best way to describe Singletary's rookie year in one word. He became just the 11th first-year ball carrier over the past decade to eclipse 750 yards on the ground at more than 5.0 yards per carry.
But unlike Hunt, Singletary didn't receive serious feature-back duties immediately. In fact, his first contest with double-digit carries (or touches) didn't occur until November. Singletary had 151 rushing attempts in the regular season last year; Hunt logged 272 totes as a rookie. But that's where the differences between the two end.
As prospects, Hunt and Singletary were nearly impossible to tackle.
|Player||School||Year||Rushes||Forced Miss Tckl||Forced Miss Tckl %|
*Data per Pro Football Focus Draft Guides
Also, Hunt averaged 3.8 yards after contact per rush in this three-year stint with the Rockets. Singletary's collegiate career average was 4.0 with the Owls.
But once Singletary was given top back responsibilities in Buffalo, he never looked back. And, for the first two months of 2019, Singletary amassed 172 yards on a grand total of 20 carries (8.6 yard average). Goodness. On 131 carries down the stretch, he still averaged 4.6 yards per carry.
According to PFF, the hyper-springy, contact-balance wizard with an impossibly low center of gravity at just under 5-foot-8 and 203 pounds forced 36 missed tackles on his 151 attempts for Buffalo a season ago, good for a rate of 23.8%. Hunt forced 61 missed tackles on 272 rookie-season carries with the Chiefs, which equates to a rate of 22.4%. Sure, a sizable sample size difference, but their elusiveness in their debut NFL seasons was nearly identical.
Singletary averaged three yards after contact per rush last year, per PFF. In 2017, Hunt's figure was 3.09. In terms of on-field production, the similarities between the two are uncanny.
What about Singletary as a receiver, you ask? Yeah, his hands weren't exactly reliable in Year 1 in Orchard Park. He was charged with six drops on his 46 targets (including playoffs). Not good. Hunt only had three on 65 targets in 2017. But check how comparable they were in their respective rookie NFL seasons once they caught the football.
|Team||Year||Rec||YAC/Rec||Frcd Miss Tckl||Frcd Miss Tckl %|
*Data via PFF
Singletary's hands have to get better; there's no doubting that. And he doesn't quite have the juice Hunt showcased early in his career. As a rookie, Hunt had four runs of 40-plus yards, while Singletary's long in 2019 was just 38 yards.
But, on paper, neither Singletary nor Hunt are freaky explosive athletes who can lean blazing downfield speed or overpowering size to win as a running back in the NFL. Like Hunt, Singletary is a bouncy ball, a lateral jump-cut nightmare for defenders who absorbs contacts with ease and continues forward as well as any back in the league.
With rookie Zack Moss in the mix in Buffalo, Singletary is unlikely to (ever) have a 272-carry season like Hunt experienced in 2017. But, like Hunt, Singletary is primed to be a legitimate star early in his NFL career.