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Fantasy: Two RBs that will decline in 2021

RB Kareem Hunt will decline in 2021

By: Brady Akins

It’s never fun to predict a downward spiral for anyway, especially football players.

These guys put their blood, sweat and tears into their work. Having some 23-year-old tell the internet that their effort is in vain isn’t fun at all. In a perfect world, everyone would be the RB1 and every player would get 100 touches a game and we’d all live happily ever after. 

It isn’t fun having to project someone having a bad season.

But in terms of attempting to build the perfect fantasy football roster, it is a necessary evil.

Kareem Hunt, Running Back, Cleveland Browns

Kareem Hunt might be one of the most talented running backs in the NFL, and he showed it last year, finishing as the overall RB10 with the Cleveland Browns.

Talent won’t be the issue for Hunt. Rather, it will be getting the necessary playing time to sustain another RB1 season with Nick Chubb still in the mix for Cleveland. Because as Chubb continues to blossom into the star running back he looks on track to be, Hunt’s role will continue to decrease.

We saw it last season. Even with his overall RB10 finish, Hunt’s production slowly dropped as the season went on, going from 14 carries per game through the first five weeks of the season, to less than half with 6.8 in the final five weeks.

Things weren’t any more promising in the playoffs, either, as Hunt saw a combined 14 carries over the team’s two playoff appearances in 2020.

What started as something close to a 50/50 split in the backfield turned into a major advantage for Chubb, who averaged 15 carries per game in the same timeframe that Hunt’s production dropped.

The tides might be shifting in favor of Chubb as the leading man in Cleveland’s backfield, which could mean the end of Kareem Hunt’s fantasy relevance. 

Saquon Barkley, New York Giants

The recent word on the street is that Saquon Barkley isn’t quite ready to play at 100% after suffering a season-ending ACL injury in Week 2 last year, and might miss practice time, or even game time.

This has led to some buzz that maybe Barkley should be faded as a high first-round pick in 2021. But my ultimate hot take is that Barkley should be faded even if he is fully healthy. 

After a monster rookie season back in 2018, Barkley has been a far cry from the player that the world fell in love with. The following year, his rushing production dropped from 1,300 yards to 1,000, his pass-catching volume dropped from 91 catches to 52, and his touchdown total was nearly cut in half from 15 to 8.

And in the short sample size we saw from him in 2020, Barkley didn’t do much to quell any concerns that 2018 was an outlier, with a six-yard showing on 15 carries in his only full game of the season.

The concept of Barkley as a fantasy running back is exciting. He’s crazy athletic and has rookie tape of him being a dominant runner and pass-catcher. But the reality of Barkley’s game since then has changed. Since Daniel Jones has taken over under center, Barkley’s receiving production has cratered from 7.4 targets per game with Eli Manning at quarterback to 5.3. 

In fact, Barkley averaged more catches per game with Manning (5.4) than he gets targets per game with Jones. And now with the additions of two new receivers in Kenny Golladay and Kadarius Toney, Barkley’s receiving volume might continue to decrease.

Add that to an inconsistent history of rushing and a 2019 season barely over 1,000 yards on the ground, and what you have is a 2021 season with the odds stacked against Barkley as anything more than a very low-end RB1 in deep leagues.

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