Derek Lofland provides his take on why Carlos Hyde is overvalued by the fantasy football community.
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One player I am surprised that fantasy football experts and fantasy owners are high on this year is San Francisco 49ers RB Carlos Hyde. His ECR (Expert Consensus Ranking) is 14th and his ADP (Average Draft Position) is 16th, which means that he is being valued as a strong RB2. I have not been as high on him this off-season. I believe he is closer to a flex option or RB3 with a running back ranking of 25th.
Hyde is someone that has been at the forefront of fantasy football since 2014. Hyde was a star running back at Ohio State, tallying 185 carries, 970 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns in 2012. He built on that solid season in 2013, when he tallied 208 carries, 1,521 yards and 15 rushing touchdowns. He averaged a stellar 7.3 yards per carry that season.
That allowed Hyde to be a high selection. He was a second round (57th overall) pick in the 2014 NFL Draft. It seemed like an ideal landing spot for him. The 49ers were (12-4) in 2013, and they had lost in the NFC Championship Game to the eventual champion Seattle Seahawks. Furthermore, veteran RB Frank Gore turned 31-years old that season, so there was potential for Hyde to enter the lineup as a starer if Gore could not hold up for the entire season.
I can understand some of the excitement surrounding Hyde this season. He was a star college player that entered the NFL with a lot of excitement. He has shown the ability to be a big-time player, highlighted by 26 carries for 168 yards and two touchdowns in the Monday Night opener against the Minnesota Vikings last year. New head coach Chip Kelly loves to run the ball, so Hyde should see a ton of rushing attempts this year. It looks like a recipe for a big fantasy season; good running back playing for a coach that likes to run the ball.
I am not so certain that this is going to end as well for the third-year running back as other experts do. While it looks like a good situation on the surface, there are five concerns that I have about him being a fantasy star in the 2015 season.
1) No experience as an NFL bell cow back
Hyde did see a lot of work at Ohio State, averaging 18.5 rushing attempts per game in 2012 and 18.9 rushing attempts in 2013. However, he has not had a ton of carries at the NFL level. He had only 83 rushing attempts in 2014 and last year as the starting back, he battled injuries and played only seven games. Hyde had just 115 carries in the 2015 season.
Furthermore, he was not that great when he played last year, with the exception of the Minnesota opener. He had less than 60 yards rushing in four of his other six starts, averaged less than 4.0 yards per carry in five of his six other starts and was held without a touchdown in five of his six other starts. Other than the Minnesota Monday Night Game, Hyde was very mediocre in 2015. This is not a player that has proven he can be a NFL player, which makes the RB2 grade risky.
2) The San Francisco offensive line is horrible
A big reason that Chip Kelly had offensive success in Philadelphia is that his offensive line was great at run blocking. Even though the Eagles underperformed last year, Pro Football Focus ranked them as the third best offensive line in terms of run blocking. That was consistent with their 2014 performance (first) and their 2013 performance (first). For those that think those stellar performances were Kelly implementing his system, the Eagles were fifth in run blocking in 2012 under head coach Andy Reid. Kelly inherited a very good offensive line and built on that solid foundation in his three years in Philadelphia.
Chip Kelly is going to try to implement his run-first offense behind a line that was terrible at run blocking in 2015. Pro Football Focus ranked the 49ers 30th in run blocking last season. The 49ers return three starters from that line (LT Joe Staley, RG Brandon Thomas and RT Erik Pears). They did add veteran LG Zane Beadles and rookie RG Josh Garnett in the off-season. Even with those changes, this still figures to be a below average offensive line in 2016. Hyde is not going to be running behind the offensive lines that made Kelly’s running attack successful in Philadelphia. A bad offensive line does not bode well for RB2 production.
3) Chip Kelly has moved toward the Running Back By Committee
When Chip Kelly arrived in Philadelphia in 2013, he relied on RB LeSean McCoy and McCoy posted a league-leading 314 carries and a league-leading 1,607 yards. McCoy also had 312 carries for 1,319 yards in 2014, but he was traded to Buffalo in the 2015 off-season. Last year, Kelly embraced the committee, with RB DeMarco Murray leading the team with just 193 carries.
I do not have faith in Chip Kelly to give the ball to Hyde 18-20 times per game. You could argue that the 49ers do not have anyone else worth giving the ball too, but Kelly is the same genius that shipped McCoy out of town and was willing to give WR Riley Cooper a big contract while releasing WR DeSean Jackson and allowing WR Jeremy Maclin to walk in free agency. I could see this being a frustrating season where the 49ers best offensive player only touches the ball 200 to 225 times and that is assuming Hyde stays healthy for all 16 games. Hyde will need more than 200 to 225 carries to be an RB2 in fantasy this year.
4) The 49ers do not score a ton of rushing touchdowns
This builds on the last two concerns, bad line and an RBBC. Last year, the 49ers only scored seven rushing touchdowns, which ranked 24th in the NFL. Rushing touchdowns are worth six points in fantasy, so if Hyde is going to be in a committee and see only 200 to 225 touches, he is going to need to score touchdowns to see RB2 value.
Take a look at Cincinnati Bengals RB Giovani Bernard. He was in the Bengals’ committee and he managed 1,209 yards from scrimmage, but only scored two touchdowns. Bernard ranked 24th in yards from scrimmage last year, but was only the 21st ranked fantasy running back and 82nd ranked overall player (includes quarterbacks). If the 49ers have the same bad offensive line as last year and Hyde is stuck in a committee, it is unlikely he will score enough touchdowns and gain enough yards from scrimmage to be a fantasy RB2.
5) The 49ers are likely to be behind a lot this season
This 49er squad is not a very good team. There have been running backs that put up great seasons on bad teams. That was the story of Detroit Lions RB Barry Sanders’ career. He once led the league in rushing for a (5-11) team back in 1996. However, that is a Hall of Fame player and the Lions were only outscored by 66 points on the season. Hyde is not a proven Hall of Famer like Sanders and the 49ers are a much worse team. The 49ers were outscored by 149 points last season and the 49ers are a more trendy pick to have the first overall pick than to make the playoffs.
That means that if the 49ers are down by a bunch of points, they are going to have to pass the ball. Rotoworld reported back in June that ESPN 49ers reporter Michael Wagaman foresees “plenty of playing time” for backup RB Shaun Draughn. Draughn’s role would be as the passing back. He averaged 4.2 receptions per game in six starts last year. Hyde has only 23 receptions in two seasons, so if the 49ers are down a bunch this year, it could be a situation where their third-down back is out there, which means Hyde will be on the bench. Hyde will not see enough touches this season if he is only in the game in running situations to justify RB2 value.
Despite these concerns, this does not mean that Hyde is unviable in fantasy football this year. He has a lot of talent and if the 49ers are able to showcase his skills and their offensive line improves from last year, he has upside in a run-first offense. I just do not want to spend a fourth or fifth round pick on an unproven player that plays behind a bad offensive line on a team that will be behind a ton this year and who is not projected to play on passing downs. I think there are other players with more upside that are in better situations with lower ADP that justify consideration over Hyde.