Is Carlos Hyde due for a bump in production?

Perhaps you’ve heard that there are conspiracy theorists who believe that NASA’s missions to our Moon were a colossal hoax? There is also a group known as the Flat Earth Society who believe, as their name indicates, that the Earth is not spherical in shape, but flat. In much the same vein, there are a few fantasy owners who will never ever be convinced that certain players will shed “bust” labels or “injury risk” reputations. Carlos Hyde may be one of those type of players. After all, he has missed games due to injury, and he has been a high draft pick (57th overall) who has arguably under-performed.

On March 14 he signed a 3-year deal with the Cleveland Browns, making him (at the time) a top-8 paid running back.

In four seasons, Hyde has only played one full season of 16 games. That was in 2017. Generally viewed as an injury risk, Hyde has missed 22% of his games prior, largely from his 2015 season where he missed 9 games due to a stress fracture in his foot. If this was not unsettling enough, Cleveland just made history by losing all of their games last season. Recent history has not been very positive for the Browns.

Alas, I am a Hyde dynasty owner. Because of the aforementioned reasons, I did make a couple of attempts to trade him. Fortunately, both trades were nixed. Fortunately? Rather than just wallow in my anxiety, I decided to do some in-depth homework and was encouraged by what I discovered.

Hyde’s Tenure in San Francisco

  • In 2014, which was Hyde’s first season, he essentially got the table scraps left over from the ageless Frank Gore, which was a miniscule 83 carries.
  • The 2015 season was the aforementioned season when Hyde suffered an injury and missed 9 games.
  • In his third season, and on his third head coach (Jim Harbaugh; Jim Tomsula; and now Chip Kelly), in just 13 games Hyde ran for 988 yards at a clip of 4.6 YPC. Both the 2016 offense and defense ranked near/at the NFL bottom, so it was easy to see why the run-game had to be abandoned.
  • Hyde’s fourth season saw yet another head coach – Kyle Shanahan. Hyde received a career high in carries, 240, which he turned into 938 yards. (One-third of the team’s carries (105) went to RB Matt Breida.)

While Hyde’s numbers may not be “elite-worthy,” he did accomplish two-thirds of this production while sharing the field with the mediocrity of QB C.J. Beathard and Brian Hoyer. (I’ll mention this significance later.)

Todd Haley’s History

A significant off-season move was that Cleveland hired former Steelers (and KC and Cardinals) OC, Todd Haley to run the Browns’ offense.

Through the last 11 seasons, Haley has given his top two backs split an average of 327.8 rushing attempts. Meanwhile his top RB was given an average of 229.7 attempts. Compared to the rest of the NFL, Haley has essentially hit the average, ranking 17.5 in rush attempts.

In 2010, Haley gave both Thomas Jones and Jamaal Charles over 200 carries each. (475 total)

What does this mean for Carlos Hyde in 2018?

Granted, Hyde has missed time due to injury. It is worth noting that in 2015, when Hyde suffered his foot injury, he did try to play through the injury for two games before it was decided that surgery would be needed to repair the damage. Though he owns a 4.2 yards-per-carry career average, 2017 did drag that average down because of his 3.9 YPC.

Meanwhile, Haley did not always have the luxury of a Le’Veon Bell or Ben Roethlisberger on offense. He had aging stars Kurt Warner, Edgerrin James and plug-in Tim Hightower in Arizona. His time in Kansas City was a rotation of Jamaal Charles, Larry Johnson, Thomas Jones, Jackie Battle and Dexter McCluster – all during the Matt Cassel era. And even in the Steel City, Haley’s time began with RB Jonathan Dwyer and Isaac Redman. Plus DeAngelo Williams was needed in 2 consecutive seasons when Bell was hurt.

It may be hard to believe, but Carlos Hyde has played more games the last 4 years (50) than Le’Veon Bell (49). I also noticed that during the Todd Haley years, carries depended largely on the production of the QB.

Haley tried to run a balanced offense, but when Kurt Warner missed time and Matt Leinart came in, the game centered on the run. Same for the Matt Cassel era in Kansas City, as well as the Steelers games where Charlie Batch, Byron Leftwich, Michael Vick, and Landry Jones were called upon in relief.

Maybe new Browns’ QB Tyrod Taylor is no Kurt Warner or Ben Roethlisberger, but he’s no Matt Leinart or Cassel either. A solid offensive line and better, consistent QB play by Taylor should also be a boost to Hyde. My guess is that the Browns use Hyde as advertised. Even if they use RB Duke Johnson on passing downs and on an occasional series, if Haley stays true to his history, Hyde should still see over 200 rush attempts easily.

Maybe I’m being bias? Or perhaps I’m just looking for a silver lining? I’d like to think I’m looking at this objectively. Objectively enough that I can feel more confident about using Hyde as a solid RB2. Of course, if the Browns draft a RB early, all of this may need to be reevaluated.

Alas, like the conspiracy theorists and flat-earthers, no amount of proof may sway some fantasy owners over to Hyde.

 

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Joe Mica

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Joe has been passionate about fantasy football since 2001. He has experience as an owner as well as a commissioner in H2H, auction, redraft and IDP leagues. He has written fantasy football columns since 2010. Submit any fantasy football questions you may have to me on twitter @JoeFMica

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