The Browns lost star running back Nick Chubb to a season-ending knee injury on Monday. Two days later, they've re-signed Chubb's former running mate, Kareem Hunt, as an . This comes after coach Kevin Stefanski declared that Chubb's in-game replacement, Jerome Ford, would serve as Cleveland's moving forward.
So where, exactly, does the Browns' backfield stand? Who's actually positioned to take over Chubb's RB1 duties? Let's dive in.
Who will be the Browns' RB1?
Kareem Hunt is the bigger name, having spent the last four years working alongside Chubb. His new one-year contract isn't nothing, either, considering it's reportedly worth up to $4 million -- a total that would make him comparably paid to high-end backups like Jamaal Williams, Samaje Perine and even Vikings starter Alexander Mattison. He's here to contribute.
But if you're simply looking to identify which back will get the majority of touches with Chubb sidelined, it's a fairly safe bet that Jerome Ford will get the nod. Firstly, he unofficially beat out Hunt for the right to enter 2023 as Chubb's top backup, with Cleveland electing to let Hunt remain unsigned in free agency all summer. More importantly, when pressed into action Monday night, Ford looked the part against a physical Steelers defense, topping 100 yards on the ground and averaging almost seven yards per touch.
With Kareem Hunt just joining the team Tuesday, Jerome Ford seems like a start this week against the Titans, but which other running backs should you play with confidence? And which ones should you avoid? CBS Sports Senior Fantasy Writer Jamey Eisenberg has you covered with his.
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How do Ford and Hunt differ in style?
Years ago, Hunt was lauded for his shiftiness, thriving as an open-field pass catcher en route to four different 35-catch seasons with the Chiefs and Browns. His speed appeared to wane in 2022, when he averaged just 3.8 yards per carry, and reportedly contributed to his quiet market this summer. Ford, on the other hand, has much less tread on the tires as a second-year player also known for his explosive burst. So, stylistically, the two aren't all that different; it's just that one is much fresher than the other.
How might Ford and Hunt split touches?
This is where it gets interesting. While Ford, 24, has more explosion than Hunt, 28, the latter has three years of experience in coach Kevin Stefanski's system, drawing almost 500 touches with the team since 2020. That history alone could give Hunt the early edge for red-zone and third-down touches. On one hand, again, it's important to remember the Browns were content to enter this season without him on the roster entirely. On the other, they wasted no time reuniting with Hunt as emergency help.
As for a likely workload divide, best-case scenario is probably 70-30 in Ford's favor, while 60-40 could end up being the normal. At any rate, on a run-centric team with a strong offensive line, both backs should get opportunities. CBS Sports Fantasy expert Jamey Eisenberg had no issue putting Ford atop his list of-- even with the knowledge a veteran might be joining the backfield -- touting Ford's upside and projecting him as a top-20 Fantasy RB for the remainder of 2023.
CBS Sports Fantasy Writer Chris Towers: "The addition of Kareem Hunt obviously isn't great for Jerome Ford, because Hunt should be able to get up to speed relatively quickly given his knowledge and experience with the offense. However, Hunt also looked pretty bad last season and couldn't find a job despite several visits with other NFL clubs. Hunt should have a role, and I'd bet he'll be the primary third-down option for the Browns, which limits Ford's ceiling if he can't earn passing work. But Hunt also looked severely lacking in explosiveness last season, so I'd be pretty surprised if he became the lead back without an injury. The problem is, Ford might just be an early-down option on a bad team, and he probably doesn't have Nick Chubb's preternatural ability to break big plays even in obvious running situations. That might leave Ford as just a fringe Fantasy football starter who needs a touchdown most weeks to be worth using. I'm viewing him as an RB3 moving forward, with Hunt only worth a speculative add as a bench stash for now."
With Hunt just joining the team Wednesday, Ford seems like a solid start this week against the Titans, but which other running backs should you play with confidence? And which ones should you avoid? CBS Sports Senior Fantasy Writer Jamey Eisenberg has you covered with his Start 'Em & Sit 'Em for Week 3.