My 2015 Reality Check: Carlos Hyde

Ryan Finley

We’ve all been there. You’re in the mall, minding your own business, just stopping in to pick up your pre-ordered copy of Madden. You’re just passing the Auntie Anne’s in the food court when you see him, that guy you don’t want to see. The guy you barely tolerated in high school with the obnoxious laugh, the guy who talks to hear his own voice. He hasn’t noticed you yet, so you plant your foot and cut into the store to your left in the vain hope you’d avoid his notice, realizing too late you’re now surrounded by the pink and purple glitter of Justice. You breathe a sigh of relief as he passes the store without glancing in your direction. It was an unorthodox move, but it paid off.

In fantasy, like in life, it sometimes pays to zig when others are zagging. It would serve us well if we remembered fantasy football is a game rife with “can’t miss” prospects who miss (I’m looking at you, Trent Richardson). Fantasy football championships are won not just by identifying studs, but also by identifying duds. There’s always at least one highly-regarded player whose asking price rises far beyond his production. Here are three reasons I believe you should try to avoid Carlos Hyde in 2015.

  1. Coaching Turmoil in San Francisco

As is the case every NFL offseason, many organizations made significant coaching moves. One of those organizations was San Francisco. Jim Harbaugh’s “close, but no cigar” habit of doing just about everything short of winning a Super Bowl apparently wore a little thin with Trent Baalke and the 49ers front office. In fact, two very-successful-but-no-Super-Bowl-win coaches were let go this past offseason in Harbaugh and John Fox of the Broncos.

So, how does this relate to Carlos Hyde?

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Well, the transition from Harbaugh to the Jim Tomsula hire wasn’t exactly a smooth one. As a matter of fact, some might have considered the whole process a bit of a coaching train wreck. It seemed they were going to hire the hot commodity Adam Gase, but things fell apart, and now Tomsula is the Head Coach. (If you want the whole picture, including the story of the Harbaugh departure, read this from The San Jose Mercury News.)

This kind of turmoil is a significant red flag for the 49ers, and it led directly into problems filling their offensive coordinator position. The 49ers interviewed several external candidates, but most appeared skittish about the job. They even offered the position to Gase, but he ultimately took the job with Fox in Chicago. Finally, Tomsula promoted the quarterbacks coach, Geep Chryst, to offensive coordinator. Chryst does have some OC experience, but the problem is that experience was from 1999-2000 – he was obviously not the first choice.

All of this means that what was once a solid, run-focused offense is now one giant question mark. Word is they would like to get Kaepernick rushing more often to take advantage of his athleticism, but what affect this may have on an untested, young running back has yet to be seen. San Francisco was a stable environment for a young running back, but this is no longer the case. In fact, with all the off-season departures, you could argue it’s not a stable environment for anybody.

  1. Turnover on the Offensive Line

Unless you happen to have Barry Sanders in the backfield, any good running game is a team effort.  You have to have strength at either running back or the offensive line and ideally you have strength in both areas. Sure, a great offensive line can cover for a middling talent at running back (as most people expect from Dallas this year) and a great running back can similarly make up for weaknesses up front. For a young, unproven running back to succeed, the best case scenario has him by a strong offensive line to help ease his transition into the starting role.

Last year, the 49ers featured a very strong offensive line. They had some questions at center, but for the most part were solid with pro bowlers like Joe Staley and Mike Iupati. Then the off-season happened. First, They lost guard Mike Iupati to the Cardinals in free agency. It’s hard to replace a solid starter on an NFL offensive line, much less replace a pro bowler like Iupati. As if losing an All-Pro guard wasn’t enough, the starting right tackle for the last four years, Anthony Davis, unexpectedly retired. That’s 40% of a very strong offensive line that hit the road. While offensive lines occasionally get better by subtraction, that subtraction usually doesn’t involve pro bowlers and four-year starters.

Carlos Hyde went from running behind one of the top units in the league to being potentially thrown to the wolves. Now the line does have a strong left side still, but with questions everywhere else it’s anyone’s guess as to how it will play out. Add to that a defense so decimated that they’ll have a hard time getting off the field and that could be a recipe for disaster.

  1. Carlos Hyde Hasn’t Proven Anything

Carlos Hyde undoubtedly has the talent and the look. He’s an explosive, powerful back with the kind of size you love to see in today’s NFL. He blows through most arm tackles and always fights for extra yardage. He’s no burner, but he has deceptive speed and acceleration when he hits the open field. He’s also very good in pass protection. If you watch some of the tape on Hyde from college, you see a player who just looks like an NFL quality running back. Just watch the fight in this clip.

So, what did he do last year behind Frank Gore? Honestly, he didn’t get a whole lot of touches to know for sure. But what he did do was decent, but not great (83 rushes for 333 yards and four touchdowns). I like that touchdown number, but his YPC was 4.0, which is nothing to write home about. Gore went down with a concussion in late 2014, but Hyde lost a good chance to get solid work while nursing his own ankle and back injuries.  Add in a running back stable that features other players with talent like Reggie Bush, Kendall Hunter and even rookies Mike Davis and Jarryd Hayne and there’s at least a little uncertainty in regards to how many carries Hyde may get.

Carlos Hyde, for all his ability and past college performance, hasn’t done anything of note in the NFL.

I love his tape, I love his build, I love what he’s done in the preseason and I love his skillset. But there have been many players who looked the part and just couldn’t make the leap to the next level. You also have to remember that at Ohio State he ran behind possibly the best offensive line in the country. Now, he has to deal with the aforementioned greatly weakened 49ers offensive line and has to do it for a very green coaching staff and a defense that may put his team in deficits where they’re forced to pass.

We get excited about players like Hyde and that’s understandable. Just watch some of that tape and you’ll see. But the NFL is for the best of the best and sometimes even the most talented college players can’t make it in the show. It’s not that I think Hyde is going to be a bust, but his current price pre-supposes he’s already an RB1. Do yourself a favor, avoid annoying guys from high school and don’t overpay for a second year running back with a LOT left to prove.