We covered the Cleveland Browns signing former San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde way back in March, so this will be an update of sorts. The NFL draft significantly impacted Hyde’s outlook, so this is where most of the focus will be placed.
Key takeaways from the last analysis include:
The hiring of Todd Haley as offensive coordinator creates a world of potential for the backfield. Hyde is a pretty darn good receiver in his own right, but he’s not on the same plane as Duke Johnson in this department.
Haley’s system utilizes running backs as multi-faceted weapons, as witnessed by the dual-threat ways of Le’Veon Bell. No one is going to mistake Hyde for Bell, but he could be a “Bell lite” option for the creative play-caller. The most important fantasy aspect will be how heavily Johnson is used in the passing game at Hyde’s expense.
Nothing here should deviate. Johnson was given a contract extension and is certain to handle the overwhelming majority of third-down work.
On the surface, it seems like Hyde has demonstrated a nose for the end zone over the past two seasons. He scored 14 times on the ground and three times via aerial work in the last 29 games. This breaks down to once every 31.9 touches. In 2016, Hyde ranked as the 24th most efficient RB in this area (100 minimum touches), which dipped to 26th in ’17. Those numbers are adequate for an RB2 but uninspiring.
The addition of second-round pick Nick Chubb could limit the number of touches Hyde sees in the red zone. An already tenuous situation could become worse for fantasy purposes….
Haley’s offenses have run the ball no more than 42.6 percent of the time in each of the past three years. Playing better defense in Cleveland and sustaining drives by way of improved quarterbacking will allow the offense to rely more on the run, or at least become balanced. The Browns hovered around the high 30s for run-pass ratio in that same window, although not by design.
Unless something changes drastically for the Browns, committing to the running game will be difficult many weeks. Now to further complicate the situation, if Tyrod Taylor loses his starting gig before or during the year to No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield, Hyde’s odds of playing in the red zone diminish.
Fantasy football outlook
Given the similar nature of Hyde’s style to that of Chubb, and the notion the former is obviously not the future, this situation is as dicey as they come in fantasy. That said, there is enough value to be found in Hyde as a midround pick to warrant a flex play with the right matchup. His current ADP of 7:05 backs up this idea. Once we approach this area of drafts, running backs are a total crapshoot in 2018. At least this one has a track record.
His upside is low, but he should remain involved barring an injury. Treat the veteran as a depth body for now, and realize this could devolve into a hot-hand situation. Owning Hyde in fantasy will mostly come down to how your team is constructed. Gamers looking for safety will shy away, and those who go heavy on wideouts early could find Hyde available as a reasonable depth choice.