Here at DLF, we believe in looking at players, strategies and topics from differing angles. With a team the size of a small third world country we are able to avoid “group think” and present our differing opinions to you guys so you can form your own. George Kritikos and I feel differently about San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde so we present to you our “dynasty debate.”
I am taking the con side here as I am lower on Hyde (#95) than any other DLF writer who participates in the top 100 (no one else had him lower than #42). So what is it that keeps me down on the big man? I’ll use some chronology here to help illustrate my series of flags that keep me from being too optimistic about his dynasty future.
[inlinead]Let’s start back at college where Ohio State has had a rough recent history of running backs transitioning to the NFL. Six different running backs have registered 1,000 yard rushing seasons for the Buckeyes since the year 2000. However, as of now, I would categorize Dan “Boom” Herron as the most successful NFL running back of that group – not a great lineage and while you can’t necessarily hold that all against Hyde, it is a reason to question his 2013 success with Ohio State.
Moving towards the combine and his performance there, it was disappointing for me to say the least. Running a 4.62 to 4.66 (depending on who you believe) 40-yard dash is a poor score for a rusher but it helps to put it into context. Let’s look at running backs who have scored 100 fantasy points in a season, drafted in the first four rounds, and ran worse than a 4.6 at the combine: Frank Gore, Stevan Ridley, Montee Ball, Le’Ron McClain, Shonn Greene, and Chris Brown. It’s a pretty short and unimpressive list outside of Gore, who has proven to be an anomaly in many ways. Why I dwell on 40-yard time is that it is shown to be the highest correlated combine metric to future success. Below is a table I’ve used in the past to illustrate average speed to the number of 200 fantasy point seasons a running back has in their career (which is the top 20-25 backs each year).
While averages mean that there will be slower running backs capable of delivering top 20 seasons, the trend overall shows that repeating the feat becomes less likely if you are slower.
Even if you tell me that these are all in the past and let’s focus on his NFL career so far, there are a few red flags here as well. On the surface, I like the 4.0 yards per carry and the ability to miss tackles (25 on just 83 carries). Where I worry is his contact rate where 68% of his yards are gained after contact. While that is appealing in the sense Hyde fights for extra yards, these backs (Hyde is in the High contact rate category) tend to be lower fantasy performers as shown below:
This is also a skill that declines with age and when a player is so reliant on it, like Hyde has shown early in his career, he could see a precipitous fall that outpaces a typical running back. Shown below are the average yards after contact by experience level, which takes a pretty good fall after the third season of a runner’s career.
The other concern I have is Hyde’s ability to handle a full workload (and if the 49ers will give him one). In games where he had at least seven carries (six games), Hyde averaged 3.2 yards per carry. Admittedly, this is a small sample as he only had three games with double digit carries (2.7 yards per carry in those) so it is tough to gauge his ability to perform with a full workload. Given his limitations as a receiver (12 receptions, never over 20 in a season at Ohio State), there is a low ceiling on his performance in the passing game as well.
All the information tells me that this is a player who could have a few useful seasons but will be hard-pressed to match the top 50 dynasty asset claims my fellow writers are bestowing on him. Currently, Hyde is my 25th rated running back which is a borderline RB2 if you are keeping score. If Gore leaves in free agency or retires, I could see him rising a few spots but he has the look of a big back like Shonn Greene, not Le’Veon Bell.
If George is taking the con side, it means I’m taking the pro. I live just north of Cincinnati and got to see Hyde play his entire college career every weekend. Full disclosure, I’m a Notre Dame fan and the Buckeyes make my stomach turn, so there is precisely zero homerism here. I am, however, a 49ers fan so maybe there’s a bit of wishful thinking in my projections. Watching him at Ohio State he reminded me a lot of Michael Turner, the former Atlanta Falcons running back. Their overall measurables at the NFL combine were very similar as well. Turner didn’t hit his stride until his fifth season in the league when he signed with the Atlanta Falcons, but when he got the chance to be the feature back, he delivered. In his five seasons with Atlanta, he rushed for 6,084 yards and averaged 4.31 yards per carry with double digit touchdowns each year while being practically invisible in the passing game.
What does Michael Turner have to do with Carlos Hyde? Maybe nothing, but it’s not unprecedented for a player of his measurables to produce. One of the big advantages Hyde will have also is the San Francisco offensive line. After a top-five rating in 2012, a season where they had the same five starters on the offensive line in all 16 games, and a top-three finish in 2013, the line was hit hard with injuries in 2014. In fact, after missing a total of 507 snaps and four games in 2012 and 2013 combined, the line missed a total of 1,413 snaps and 19 total games in 2014. Even though the team’s average rushing yards per game held steady from 137.6 in 2013 to 136.0 in 2014, those numbers were inflated a bit by Colin Kaepernick’s career high 639 rushing yards and 6.1 yards per carry. With a healthy offensive line going into next season, look for the team’s ground game to get back to bludgeoning opponents.
Now Frank Gore is a free agent and probably won’t be back as the 49ers seem determined to turn the page on the Harbaugh era and re-shape this team. New head coach Jim Tomsula and offensive coordinator Geep Chryst are already talking about more designed runs for Kaepernick which will definitely create running lanes for whoever is in the backfield – it also commands extra defensive attention which leaves one less defender for Hyde.
Filling the shoes of Gore (the franchise’s all-time leading rusher) won’t be easy as he averaged nearly 1,150 yards and seven touchdowns over the last three seasons. A proficient receiver early in his career, he wasn’t much of a receiving threat during the Harbaugh era, which bodes well for Hyde’s apparent passing game limitations. As George noted, he never had more than 20 receptions in a season at Ohio State and only had 12 in his rookie year. It was also rumored to be the deciding factor for the Bengals selecting Jeremy Hill over the hometown hero in last year’s draft. With the fantasy running back position in as bad of shape as I can ever remember it, I have Hyde ranked in between Marshawn Lynch and Arian Foster as my RB8.
The running backs we’ve leaned on heavily over the years are entering their twilight – Jamaal Charles, Lynch and Foster are 28 years old and Adrian Peterson and Matt Forte are both 29. I believe Hyde has the best chance to flirt with low end RB1 / high end RB2 numbers for the next 5-6 seasons.
So, what do you think? Let us know in the comments section below.