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For Fantasy purposes, this game was a tale of two rookie running backs — Joe Mixon and Kareem Hunt.
The media coverage of these two is interesting and in some cases ridiculous. The football intelligentsia is strangely playing in cautious with Joe Mixon (6-16-0, 1-15-0/1). I would’ve thought they been hysterical by now, like they are with Christian McCaffrey, but by and large they seem to be playing their Mixon cards close to their chest; hedging their bets. They really like Mixon, but he’s not had a breakout moment this preseason and then there was all that off the field mess…plus, they loved Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard at one time as well. The Mixon situation is murky for them right now…his fantasy hysteria waiting for a national football analyst name to push him and allow the rest of football and fantasy media to follow.
At the same time, the entire football analyst community has decided Spencer Ware is the worst running back in the NFL and must be replaced ASAP. There’s something about the Kansas City Chiefs football that minds hate — it must be all of their wins the past two seasons. The Chiefs are 22-4 in their last 26 regular season games…and the football media is convinced Kansas City is terrible and it will never be turned around until Alex Smith and Spencer Ware are given the boot. It is probably the most ridiculous position to take on football matters in the entire industry – but there they are. They’ve even convinced themselves TyreeK Hill is a flash in the pan and they have no idea who Chris Conley is. They do fall all over themselves to tell you Travis Kelce and his four touchdowns last year = ‘Baby Gronk’.
Because of their disdain for Spencer Ware/all-things-Chiefs-except-Kelce, for reasons unknown, they are desperate for Kareem Hunt (8-40-0, 3-23-0/3) to be the starting RB for this team…again, for reasons unknown. Before I watched/studied this game tape, I saw the Roto-notes from it – a blurb loving Hunt getting so much 1st-team work and coming about an inch away from proclaiming Hunt will start over Ware opening day (the 1st-team work was a planned event by Andy Reid…Ware started). For the mainstream sharing the same brain, it’s only a matter of time for Hunt over Ware. Kind of the same way I feel about Samaje Perine over their beloved Rob Kelley. And Mitchell Trubisky, who ‘they’ despised since the day he got drafted, over Mike Glennon. They’ve absolutely convinced themselves Hunt is going to be the starter any day – I can assure you nothing is further from the truth, barring injury.
I know Kareem Hunt is not overtaking Spencer Ware now, and he’s not going to split much of his time in 2017 either. It’s a fallacy the football media loves…and is wrong. Just because Hunt ran with the first team doesn’t mean Ware is in danger. Everything I have seen from training camp and every person I trust to know something about the Chiefs’ operations knows this is Ware’s backfield and everyone else is in a support role. If I did not have that knowledge, I could just simply look at this game, and Hunt’s performance, and realize he’s not overtaking Ware. I saw a bit of a problem with Hunt in his 1st-team work in this game – and it’s a problem that’s going to haunt him his entire career and make him just a solid running back never a star, especially for fantasy. I’ll come back to that in a second.
Part of the shoulder shrug watching Hunt here can be blamed on watching Joe Mixon work at the same time in the same game. Last week, it took a little bit before Mixon came into the game. This week, in the first series, after a first down – into the game was Mixon to start the second set of downs on the very first drive. Mixon is moving closer and closer to being the de-facto starter, even if Jeremy Hill plays/starts the first series – it’s going to be Mixon’s game when you look at the box score in the end.
Mixon is just too well-rounded and nimble for his size to be held back. Instead of hating on Spencer Ware the football minds should be castigating Jeremy Hill. Once you accept that Hill is not very good, never has been, then it’s easy to push the rookie ahead of him. Gio Bernard is incredibly overrated as a talent as well. Mixon has a straight line to the starting job.
However, if you look at Mixon’s stat line in this game it’s not all that exciting. You can watch him and think because he’s bouncing around like he’s on a pogo stick, and you think you see Le’Veon Bell 2.0, that Mixon is destined to be a star right away in 2017. I would just cautious about’ bouncy’, talented running backs – they need an offense of line to go with it.
We tend to romanticize players we pre-like before really getting to know them – the media does this all the time. Christian McCaffrey is a great example – they have absolutely convinced themselves McCaffrey is the greatest running back to get the history of football and no alternative view will be acceptable besides 100% love. We see Mixon bouncing around and being patient to find room to run into a lot of time in this game – but there was not a lot of room for him to run…thus the weak rushing totals for the game. Do you know who else is very bouncy and patient, and looks like Le’Veon Bell – Jerick McKinnon circa 2016. McKinnon has athleticism off the charts. I watched him last season take over the starting role and absolutely get bottled up every carry he took it seemed. I always get worked up about McKinnon because I think he’s a star waiting to happen but Minnesota had a terrible offensive line and no one could prosper behind it – that and the playcalling. It’s possible Joe Mixon to face some of those same roadblocks. The Bengals’ line had issues last year and turned over a few members this year. Le’Veon Bell is great but he has arguably the best offensive line in football working with him.
Offensive line aside, Joe Mixon is a pleasure to watch because guys his size should not be able to move that adeptly. There’s a lot of reason to get excited about Mixon but there’s also a dark cloud that may be out of his control for 2017 (the O-Line) and you saw glimpses of it here.
By contrast, Kareem Hunt is not ‘bouncy’. He does not have the size of Joe Mixon. He does not have the fluidity of movements. He does have NFL skills – shifty feet running between the tackles. He’s not a breakaway threat. He’s not going to run around defenders east to west. He’s going to work straight up the gut nicely. That’s somewhat of a limitation for Hunt. Everyone notes that Hunt has terrific hands, and he does, but what was glaring in this game when you compare him to the visual of Mixon and Ware – is that Hunt will catch any pass thrown to him, like Ware and Mixon, but Hunt takes a longer time to flare out/to get open. Hunt does not have an instant 0-to-60 burst…catching a pass with his back to the defense and getting turned around and blasting off. Hunt does everything slower than Mixon and Ware because he’s not the same athlete (the pre-draft workout measurables confirm this). When you consider Mixon and Ware are much bigger and more athletic — how can anyone be daydreaming about a time where Kareem Hunt sends Spencer Ware to the bench? The only way Hunt is better than Ware is maybe shiftiness between the tackles? It’s not like Ware is terrible between the tackles – he’s very good and with his size and speed can move mountains with his shoulder – another thing Hunt cannot do.
I am a fan of Kareem Hunt but only to a certain point and in a specific role. Watching this game, seeing him at the same time Joe Mixon worked, it was a nice reminder that there’s no way Hunt is usurping Ware in 2017. The only rookie running back from this game that’s going to leapfrog the established starters is Joe Mixon.
— The media is also in love with itself wanting Patrick Mahomes (10-14 for 88 yards, 2 TD/0 INT) to start over Alex Smith. I’ve seen several mentions of, “…if Alex Smith struggles, the Chiefs are ready to pull the plug and go to Mahomes.” Look, I’m a Patrick Mahomes fan as well – but what in the hell has Alex Smith done to deserve all of this wrath? Is it the 22-4 KC record the past 26 regular-season games? The two AFC West titles the past two campaigns? All the guy does is win — and all the media does is hate him. The media likes style, flash, shiny new things over establish things that work. So through that prism, they sit pine for Kareem Hunt and Patrick Mahomes to take over one of the best/the best regular-season team in the entire NFL for the past two seasons… It doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Media stupidity aside, Mahomes would be ready to start if needed. I love watching these young quarterbacks come from innovative offenses in college and jump right to the pros and act like they’re bored with the simplicity of it. The NFL goes out of its way to make excuses and pound its chest/con the public on how hard everything is and how rookie QBs need to transition because everything is so ultra complicated. Go ask Dak Prescott how complicated the NFL is. If you say, “Well, he has the offensive line” – then I’d say, “So what! He still walked right in and was great. So the NFL’s not complicated — it’s just been about how good the O-Line? Mitchell Trubisky, Patrick Mahomes, and Davis Webb are all ready to start in the NFL right now — and with solid blocking and a nonrestrictive playbook they would lead their teams to the playoffs/solid seasons as rookies. But because we’ve convinced ourselves the NFL it’s so complicated — mere mortals can’t handle it… This being said by people within the industry who have cause to talk about how they walked to school uphill both ways 10 miles a day in a snowstorm and you kids don’t know how well you have it. Most rookies don’t get the chance. No one is advocating for Trubisky even though he’s obviously a superstar and far superior to Mike Glennon. No one is advocating Davis Webb push Eli Manning aside. But for some reason the media is in love with Patrick Mahomes bumping one of the best, most winningest starting quarterbacks in the league aside already. It doesn’t make any sense.
That’s a long way of saying Patrick Mahomes is good and he’ll be a pretty prosperous NFL quarterback if he’s not hamstrung by the playbook or playcalling. I will say it a hundred more times until he starts – I am very much wondering how all of the Mahomes lovers are going to deal with the silly turnovers he’ll have because he’s a true gunslinger. I suspect they’ll cover for him. If Mitchell Trubisky (or Alex Smith) throws a pick – the media will howl for Mark Sanchez. If Mahomes throws a pick, well, we all have to understand young quarterbacks the room to grow. How is Blake Bortles doing anyway?
— Another preseason game, another minor glimpse of Tyreek Hill and then taken out of the game quickly and put into bubble wrap.
Just a note — his one catch was as a wide receiver running a slant pattern, and he followed that with coming across taking a handoff for a standard (for him) 11-yard run. A couple touches and out of there. Exactly the way stars should be treated. This is going to be delicious for fantasy football 2017.
— Tra Carson (8-24-0, 1-1-0/1) came in and looked like a version of Joe Mixon, but less dancing and more decisive popping up the middle. If anyone in the NFL is looking – Tra Carson has starter talent and will be cut before opening day.