Possibly, The Most Undervalued Running Back To Begin Your Fantasy 2019…
You don’t believe Carlos Hyde is the lead back in Kansas City, do you?
It makes sense that you don’t believe…why would you? Last we saw Hyde he was the failing backup for the Jacksonville Jaguars. Prior to that, he was with Hue Jackson’s Browns (traded away before the 2019 Browns resurgence). Prior to that, he was with the awful 49ers’ teams pre-Shanahan and for Shanny’s takeover/rebuild first season. Carlos Hyde has been a dark cloud…or the unluckiest player in the NFL…or has the worst/unluckiest agent in football.
You also don’t want to believe in Hyde because you love what you saw with Damien Williams late 2018. You saw a few good games and you’re sold. Hyde did the opposite down the 2018 stretch…and, thus, you’re sold on his valueless-ness.
Why do you believe a running back, Damien Williams, who was mostly irrelevant as a 3rd-string back for KC (and buried as a backup/3rd-string in Miami for years) is now the obvious Chiefs starter for 2019?
If KC was so sure about Williams, why sign Hyde? Why would Hyde sign to be a backup? Worst case scenario…perhaps, this is a ‘split’ situation? Who do you think will win the split – the running back who has been a lead RB wherever he has gone, grinding hard and productive on awful teams/offenses (Hyde), or the guy who was forced to have to play/start late 2018 season and had a couple good games (Williams)?
Let’s look at the case for each guy, and the case for what KC is going to do with them in 2019…
The case for Hyde…
From 2014-2017, after his 2014 rookie season, Carlos Hyde was the unquestioned lead back for the 49ers. At the time, the Niners were one of the worst teams in the NFL. Hyde went from promising rookie in Jim Harbaugh’s disastrous final season (2014) in the NFL to the inexplicable Jim Tomsula season (2015) to the bizarre Chip Kelly grease fire season (2016) to Kyle Shanahan’s first season takeover (2017). In that last season in SF, with a better head coach, Hyde ran for 938 yards and scored 8 TDs with a sweet 59 catches out of the backfield – playing all 16 games.
Hyde entered free agency in 2018, and he was looked at as a main carry/three-down guy and he inked a deal with the Browns to become their starter (as they ditched Isaiah Crowell). As 2018 season unfolded, Nick Chubb looked weak early on and Hyde was becoming the wrecking ball the team needed. Through six games, Hyde ran for 382 yards and 5 TDs…16-game pacing for 1,000+ yards rushing and 13+ TDs on the ground – and that was with Tyrod holding him (and the offense) back (for 2-3 games) and Hue Jackson/Todd Haley being the nightmares that they were.
Before the trade deadline, the (then) dying Browns traded Hyde to needy Jacksonville – Leonard Fournette couldn’t get on the field and the Jags were still in some kind of contention (and the defending AFC South champs). Hyde joined the Jags, and the entire Jacksonville O-Line went down, Fournette returned quicker than expected, Cody Kessler was elevated to starting QB, and the whole season went down the toilet as Hyde mostly stood on the sidelines and watched.
The Jags released Hyde in March 2019, and he was quickly scooped up by the Chiefs on a one-year ‘prove it’ deal…one Hyde wanted to try to rehab his suddenly battered career.
Hyde has been productive for the past few seasons…his crime has been landing on the worst teams in football (at the time). Talent is not an issue and he’s still in his ‘good years’ – he’s turning 29 years old in September. It’s a very smart signing by the Chiefs.
The case for Damien Williams…
Respected backup running back and solid receiver out of the backfield…that was Williams’s label and he was paid/pursued as much by KC last offseason – added to be a backup. Kareem Hunt was the clear starter, so Williams signing with KC was under no allusion that he would start. Spencer Ware was returning from injury…and Ware would be a somewhat obvious #2 RB. Williams was a 3rd-RB, signed, somewhat, as insurance in case Ware wouldn’t be ready coming off his injury.
Midseason, when Kareem Hunt’s world got turned upside down…it was Ware, not Williams KC turned to. Ware took the lead Week 13 at Oakland (14 carries vs. 5 carries for Williams). In Week 14, Ware was an MVP work horse rushing for 75 yards and catching 5 passes for 54 yards against a top Ravens defense…but Ware got hurt and Williams was forced to take a bigger role the following week.
Williams ran the ball 10 times as the lead back in Week 15, against the Chargers…for 49 yards and 2 TDs, but catching 74 yards worth of passes as well. He ran for 103 yards against Seattle Week 16 and then everyone was buying into Williams.
Ware never got healthy enough to return. Williams had a big game the first round of the playoffs against Indy, and then the Patriots kinda stuffed him (as a runner). Williams did a great job in relief, because he is a talent back.
What will KC do Week 1 in 2019?
Williams has the talent to be the lead, in a pinch. Hyde has the talent to be the lead…and has been his entire career back to college. Will the Chiefs honor what Williams did late 2018 season…or do they know Williams is not lead back material and needed to get a Hunt-like Carlos Hyde?
Will they split them?
A split sounds logical, but the Chiefs/Andy Reid is not notorious for ‘splitting’ (like a 50/50 plan or random/hot hand deal)…
-- In 2013, Reid took over the Chiefs and inherited Jamaal Charles, who was ‘the guy’ in 2013 and 2014.
-- Charles was going to be the guy in 2015, but he got hurt. Charcandrick West became the guy, until Spencer Ware became the guy by the sheer force of his talent.
Sure, Ware-West split some for a few weeks…but there was always a lead. Ware forced a split for a bit because he was forcing his way to a ‘start’, and he did. West became irrelevant.
-- In 2016, Ware was the lead with some touches for West…but Ware was the clear lead back.
-- In 2017, Ware was to be the lead but got hurt mid-preseason and rookie Kareem Hunt was forced into the lineup and became ‘the guy’.
-- In 2018, Hunt was still the guy…until he wasn’t. Then Ware was ‘the guy’ due to the Hunt situation…until he got hurt. Then, Williams became the lead.
Many different RBs for Andy Reid over the years, but there was always one guy who was the 70-90%+ touch guy at the top most games. Why would we think he’ll change after ALL THESE YEARS in the NFL and with KC? History says one of Williams or Hyde will be the 70%+ touch guy out of the gates.
Williams is capable of it, but he’s never really done it over time – Williams could have been a short-term phenomena and KC knows it…and, thus, the Hyde signing. Hyde has proven he can be the three-down lead back for years. It’s not like Hyde USED to be good, he was about to have his best NFL season with the Browns until they traded him to running back hell 2018 in Jacksonville.
If I had to bet…I’d bet on Hyde having the most touches in 2018 (all things healthy). At minimum, he splits with Williams. The masses do not see it this way…at all.
Williams is a borderline RB1 in redrafts/Best Ball…being taken ahead of guys like Fournette, Mack, Henry, Freeman, etc. Why? Because of a few good games late…and everyone thinks/knows KC is a magical land for running backs – and there is truth to that.
…but what if that magical land is going to be ruled by the most Hunt-like guy on the roster – Carlos Hyde? The masses don’t think so, as he is trading as an RB3.5+ in early fantasy drafts. Kareem Hunt is being taken ahead of Hyde right now…how is that possible in Redraft/Best Ball?
At worst it’s 50-50 Williams and Hyde for 2019…yet, one is trading like an RB1 and the other like an RB3-4.
Imagine for a moment, Hyde is the lead… Would he not be an RB1? If Andy Reid said Hyde was his lead today…would he not switch ADP places with Williams in an instant? Hyde as the lead in KC, right now, is not far-fetched. If it is more a 50-50 role split, I’d also bet on Hyde to just seize the main carry/touch role.
What if KC drafts a running back? They might, but probably a later round/draft one. They have good money tied up in Hyde-Williams now and this NFL draft is lacking in RB firepower. I don’t think Hyde will be the Chiefs lead back in 2020…but for 2019, he’s my vote…especially for the price, which is almost nothing.
For his current ADP, he might be the best value guy to buy as a chance at getting ‘the man’ working in a great offense and names starter for Week 1 this season.