Fantasy Football Profile: Buying Carlos Hyde
It’s often difficult to justify which running backs are among the elite in the game, since offensive line, offensive play-calling, and the team’s points per game all come into play. There are even more factors, however these are the biggest supporters/limiters of running backs. Carlos Hyde has overcome all three of them when healthy, yet he’s falling down draft boards as we speak.
There is no disputing the fact that Hyde has dealt with plenty of injuries over his first three years, missing 14 of 48 possible games. It’s not something that is predictive, so while it definitely slides him down just a tad, his play on the field is well worth the risk.
Tackle Breaking Machine
Since Hyde came into the league, there are just six running backs who’ve broken more tackles while carrying the ball. DeMarco Murray, Le’Veon Bell, LeSean McCoy, Mark Ingram, Jonathan Stewart, and Marshawn Lynch. Five of those six running backs (only exception was Lynch) have totaled at least 597 carries in that span. Hyde managed to keep pace despite totaling just 415 carries, arguably making him the most elusive back in all of football. Lynch was the only one of them who topped him on a broken tackle per touch basis, but nobody had concerns with Lynch while he was playing.
Defying the Odds
Similar to Lynch, Hyde has been on a bad football team to start his NFL career. In 2016, the 49ers scored just 19.3 points per game, ranking them 27th in the category. We all know that Chip Kelly was the play-caller last year and there’s not much need for discussion there, as he’s now out of football. As for the offensive line, Pro Football Focus graded the 49ers offensive line as the second-worst run-blocking unit in football, behind only the Seahawks. We haven’t even mentioned the fact that Blaine Gabbert and Colin Kaepernick were the starting quarterbacks of that team.
Despite all of these factors going against him, Hyde finished as the No. 9 running back in fantasy points per game. There wasn’t a single running back in front of him whose team was outside the top-14 in actual points per game (seven of the eight were top-10 scoring teams). The moral of the story is that it’s very rare for a running back on a team as bad as Hyde to finish with the fantasy points that he did.
There are a lot of rumblings as of late, talking about how Hyde isn’t a fit in Kyle Shanahan’s scheme, and that rookie Joe Williams is “their guy” that they hand-picked. This is where you need to fade the noise from the off-season and listen to what the head coach said about the situation back in March:
“Right now, I see Carlos being our back. We’ve studied a lot of the guys on tape. He’s the guy that’s got the most. Carlos is a guy who I was a fan of coming out of college. He had a real good career there. I looked at him hard when, I think I was in Cleveland at the time and had a good feeling he was going to be a great back then. I don’t think he’s a finished product. I think there’s a lot more to his game and I look forward to us helping him bring that out.”
He then went on to say, “I think Devonta in our scheme in Atlanta is how Devonta, to me, would have been in any scheme. If you’re a real good running back, you’re going to be a real good running back. I think people overrate that a lot personally. Carlos was a great running back in college and he has put some real good things on tape so far in the NFL and that’s why I look forward to having him and getting to work with him. I think it goes the same across the board. People I think overrate a little bit too much the scheme. If you’re a good running back in this league, you’re going to be good in your scheme, whatever that is.”
On one of our recent FantasyPros podcasts, I talked about the fact that a great coach builds his scheme around his best players, not the other way around. Though Shanahan may be looked at as an exception, you won’t convince me that a 31-year-old running back (Tim Hightower) or a projected sixth or seventh-round pick (Joe Williams) is better in any scheme than Hyde. Once Frank Gore left the 49ers, all running backs outside of Hyde have combined to average just 3.0 yards per carry, while Hyde himself has averaged 4.39 yards per carry.
Over the last two months, Hyde’s average draft position has tumbled from as high as 2.08 in March, to as low as 4.09 in recent drafts. At the start of this article, I talked about how it’s often hard to quantify whether or not a running back is special due to all of the surrounding factors. But going through this journey on Hyde, you should have learned that he is one of those running backs, and his head coach literally said that scheme is overrated. So, you can choose to believe all the fluff pieces on Joe Williams, or you could go out there and get yourself an RB1 at a steep discount. If you’re drafting with me, you better reach for him.