For the second time in as many nights, the Chiefs traded up Friday during the NFL Draft, nabbing Toledo running back Kareem Hunt at No. 86 overall in the third round.
“I’m excited to be a Chief,” Hunt said from a gathering in Cleveland with family and friends to watch the draft. “Kansas City Chiefs, baby. … It means a lot” they moved up to get me. “It means they believe in me and believe I can come in and help the program.”
It’s a position of need for the Chiefs after releasing Jamaal Charles, the franchise’s all-time leading in late February.
“I feel like, Jamaal Charles, I can fit into his role and fill his role,” Hunt said. “I know he was a great back — Jamaal Charles, the leading running back for the Kansas City Chiefs — but I’m excited to get out there and show them what I can do.”
Obviously, there’s some pressure replacing Charles, the NFL’s all-time leader in yards per carry, but Hunt’s eager to try.
“It’s a lot of pressure, because that’s a great running,” Hunt said. “He definitely can be in the Hall of Fame. Everybody knows Jamaal Charles. That guy is one kind of athlete. Honestly, I’m not going to try and do too much. I’m just going to come there and play my game.”
He has a lot of experience in outside zone plays — mostly from the shotgun, “sidecar we call it,” Hunt said — but also ran his share of power plays using inside zone concepts.
“I definitely see myself as a home-run back and I also see myself as a guy who can pound the ball in the four-minute drill,” Hunt said. “I definitely feel like I can do it all.”
Hunt — who met with the Chiefs, including running backs coach Eric Bieniemy, at the NFL Combine — led the Mid-American Athletic Conference in rushing yards per game each of the last three seasons and is Toledo’s all-time rushing leader with 4,945 yards.
As the price for moving up 18 spots to select Hunt, the Chiefs sent Minnesota a third-round compensatory pick (No. 104 overall), a fourth-round pick (No. 132) and a seventh-round pick (245).
Hunt (5-10, 216), who posted a 36 1/2-inch vertical at the NFL Combine, averaged 6.3 yards per carry during his career with the Rockets, including a monster sophomore season when he finished with 205 carries for 1,631 yards and 16 touchdowns in only 10 games.
His 8.0-yard average that season ranked seventh in the Football Bowl Subdivision, though he missed three midseason games with an ankle injury.
That also was the year he gashed Missouri for 148 yards and three touchdowns on 15 carries in a game at Toledo’s Glass Bowl.
“I had a chip for the fans and it was on my shoulder,” Hunt said. “… Every big game, I try to show — playoffs, bowl games — I try to show up and give it my all.”
Hunt backed up that breakout season with 178 carries for 973 yards and 12 touchdowns in nine games as a junior then totaled 262 carries for 1,475 yards with 10 touchdowns as a senior.
He was suspended for the 2015 season opener against Arkansas for an unspecified violation of team rules.
Hunt returned to rush for 129 yards against Iowa State, but he suffered a hamstring injury late in the overtime upset against the Cyclones and missed two more games.
Hunt remained healthy throughout the 2016 season and also added a new element to his repertoire.
After racking up 32 receptions for 152 yards during his first three seasons, Hunt also emerged as a threat in the passing game last fall with 41 catches for 403 yards, including a 71-yard touchdown.
Even more impressive for all that production, Hunt fumbled once as a freshman then didn’t lose a fumble from 2014-16, a span of more than 700 touches.
Hunt played at 200 pounds as a freshman then bulked up to 225 pounds for his junior and senior seasons, but he had slimmed down to 216 pounds for the NFL Combine.
Asked his ideal playing weight, Hunt said it was 210-220 pounds.
The Chiefs traded their natural third-round pick (No. 91 overall) along with next year’s No. 1 pick Thursday to swap first-round picks — No. 27 overall for No. 10 — with the Bills and selected Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes II.
Chiefs remaining draft picks
Saturday (11 a.m. on ESPN, NFL Network)
5th round: No. 170, 180 & 183
6th round: No. 218
The book on Kareem Hunt
The Star’s Terez A. Paylor looked at six of Hunt’s games before the draft (Temple 2015, Brigham Young 2016, Ball State 2016, Western Michigan 2016, Appalachian State 2016, Senior Bowl 2016) and talked to draft analysts to write this scouting report:
KAREEM HUNT, Toledo
Measurables: 5 feet 10, 216 pounds, 21 years old, 4.62-second 40-yard dash
Bio: Three-year starter who rushed 262 times for 1,475 yards (5.6 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns in 13 games in 2016. Also caught 41 passes for 403 yards and a touchdown. Zero fumbles.
Strengths: Posted a 36 1/2 -inch vertical leap, among the best at his position. Squat, nimble back with live feet, legit upfield burst and natural instincts. Has a powerful lower body and outstanding contact balance; is adept at squaring himself after a blow and continuing forward. Has a low center of gravity and is difficult to line up for a big blow. Runs hard and with some power in space; has an effective stiff arm and isn’t afraid to play the leverage game one-on-one (he often wins). Creative runner who can make something out of nothing and make defenders look foolish in the open field. Scheme-versatile runner who can be effective inside or outside in a zone or power scheme. Extremely reliable ball carrier who only fumbled once in his career. Has lots of production as a pass receiver; shows the ability to be elusive and make tough catches. Is aware in pass protection and generally carries out his assignment.
Weaknesses: Concerned some by checking in at a light 208 pounds during Senior Bowl weigh-in. Long-term durability because of a general lack of size will always be a concern. Ran a below-average 40; field speed is good but he can get tracked down from behind toward the end of a long run. Is not big enough to run through people in close quarters without a head of steam. Technique in pass protection needs work; ducks his head into oncoming rushers too much and could stand to take advantage of his natural leverage and be a touch more physical.