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Who is Kareem Hunt, and how did he run all over the Patriots?

The Chiefs’ rookie running back put in work on Thursday night.

NFL: Kansas City Chiefs at New England Patriots David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

Football is back! One thing you may not have expected on Thursday night was the Chiefs to beat the Patriots — but you also didn’t expect Kareem Hunt to lead the way.

Hunt had 17 carries for 148 yards and a touchdown, with his longest run a 58-yard burst. He was also deadly in the receiving game, catching five passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns, his longest — a 78-yard pass, a rarity for Alex Smith.

In total, Hunt had 246 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns — not a bad debut.

So who is Kareem Hunt?

Hunt is the Chiefs’ third-round pick out of Toledo — 86th overall. The Chiefs traded up to get him on draft night, so it’s obvious they saw something in him. A native of Willoughby, Ohio, he was a three-star recruit coming out of high school. In his senior season, he rushed for 2,685 yards and 44 touchdowns.

When he got to Toledo, he played immediately as a true freshman. In his entire career at Toledo, he fumbled the ball just once, having 856 touches. So of course on his first NFL carry, he fumbles and loses it.

How did Hunt become the starter?

Hunt got the Chiefs’ starting running back job after Spencer Ware tore his PCL and LCL. It required immediate surgery, ending his 2017 season.

That left Hunt and Charcandrick West on the roster. Hunt looked good for the Chiefs in August: 18 carries for 79 yards, as well as four receptions for 31 yards.

“I think we're going to be OK there,” head coach Andy Reid said after Ware’s injury. “Now, listen, are you going to replace [Ware]? No, he's a good football player, but the young kid [Hunt] will step in and he'll do a nice job for us.”

Reid was right, but he probably didn’t expect what he saw on Thursday in Foxborough.

Was he expected to be this good?

The 2017 NFL draft class was stacked with running back talent. Hunt was seventh in Dan Kadar’s running back rankings for the class, behind Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Curtis Samuel, and Joe Mixon.

Here was Kadar’s scouting report on Hunt:

If you consider a player for one standout trait, Hunt may not be your man. He’s not the fastest, nor is he the biggest or some elite athlete. What he is, however, is a good all-around back who could be a solid lead runner in the right system. At Toledo he had a productive four years of 4,945 yards and 44 touchdowns running the ball. Hunt is a smart runner who gets low on contact, which makes him hard to tackle. He doesn’t have to slow down when he cuts or changes direction and he has just enough speed to get to the outside.

Holding Hunt back is a lack of top-end speed. He may not break many deep runs as a pro and can get caught from behind. He’s developing nicely as a pass catcher, pulling in 41 receptions in 2016 compared to 32 the previous three seasons. He’s not much as a blocker, and will really ding him with some teams.

SB Nation’s MAC blog Hustle Belt made a more confident declaration prior to the draft:

Hunt is the steal of this draft.

Based on what fans saw from Hunt on Thursday, this holds up well. The Patriots had trouble tackling Hunt. He wasn’t the fastest guy but was a killer in the passing game.

But did we expect that? Not exactly.

What did he do statistically significant on Thursday?

Glad you asked: