Perhaps the most surprising move in the early days of this season’s free agency period was Cleveland picking up Carlos Hyde in free agency. Clearly Hyde was an upgrade over last year’s main runner Isaiah Crowell. The surprising part was that after last Friday’s trade-apalooza, it seemed the Browns were positioning themselves to take Penn State runner Saquon Barkley, either at the No. 1 or No. 4 picks. No that seems a bit more murky.
So let’s examine all the players that are involved with the fallout of the move.
Carlos Hyde, RB CLE
Hyde inked a 3-year, $15 million deal Wednesday. His opportunities have been limited the past couple of seasons thanks to San Francisco’s struggles to put up points, causing the team to pass while playing from behind.
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Last season Hyde ran for 938 yards with a 3.9 yards per carry average and 8 touchdowns. He also added 350 yards receiving on 59 catches. While those aren’t world beater numbers, Hyde did play in every game last season, showing durability and toughness to close out games.
Wednesday evening NFL Network reported that Browns were still eyeing Barkley with one of their two early picks. That could just be smoke and mirrors, as rotating both Barkley and Hyde would cap both players’ value.
One negative for Hyde is that just hours after he signed, franchise left tackle Joe Thomas announced his retirement. Thomas had been a fixture for 11 seasons and now Cleveland will have to replace its best run blocker.
Hyde was being drafted 54th overall. He is ranked as DLF’s RB17, and 44th overall.
Saquon Barkley, RB Penn State
We don’t usually discuss a player who hasn’t been drafted as part of free agency signings, but all signs were pointing to Barkley being on Cleveland’s radar, maybe being the No. 1 overall selection.
Barkley is an amazing talent, one that could cause teams to want to trade up to acquire him in next month’s NFL Draft. The last time a running back went first overall was Ki-Jana Carter in 1995. Before that, it was Bo Jackson in 1986.
If Cleveland passes on him twice, that could create a feeding frenzy of trades as teams try to come up to snag the golden goose of the draft.
Duke Johnson, RB CLE
In theory, Johnson’s role shouldn’t change that much. He’ll still be the pass catching option out of the backfield. While Hyde has ok hands, this is Johnson’s forte, so he will still get the majority of the catches.
The problem for Johnson was actually the rest of the offense got better around him. Hyde, Jarvis Landry, and Tyrod Taylor are all immediate upgrades over their predecessors. Logic would dictate that this many good players together would indicate that the Browns will win more than zero games in 2018. Since Cleveland has been playing from behind for the better part of two seasons, Johnson has found plenty of work, especially in the fourth quarter. I would expect those number to dip going forward.
Isaiah Crowell, RB NYJ
Crowell was already out of town before Hyde signed, but the writing on the wall that he wasn’t coming back. While the Jets are a hot mess, with Matt Forte’s retirement, there is snaps to be had.
Last season Crowell had 853 yards at 4.1 yards per carry with 2 touchdowns. He also had 182 yards through the air on 28 catches.
Crowell is currently being draft at the 116 spot. He is DLF’s RB27 and is ranked 121 overall.
Tyrod Taylor, QB CLE
Taylor is someone who makes plays with his legs. Even with LeSean McCoy last season, Taylor would take off when a play broke down.
As stated above with Johnson, since the offense is improved, even above what Taylor was operating with last year, his rushing stats should drop. If the Browns were smart, they would still have a few designed runs in the offense for Taylor.
This past season Taylor passed for 2,799 yards with 14 touchdowns against only 4 interceptions with a receiving corps that was mostly paper towels. He also had 427 yards on the ground with another 4 scores. He did miss a week for…..weird reasons from the coaching staff.
Taylor’s ADP is currently 234. He is currently rated as the QB22 and the 185th overall player. I expect those numbers to climb with a better supporting cast.
The addition of Hyde gives the Browns a legitimate threat on the ground. That should draw the safeties closer to the line of scrimmage, allowing the receivers to get more 1-on-1 matchups on the outside. That should lead to more chunk plays and ultimately, more points on the board.