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In this article series, we look back at an individual player from 2014, and try to re-watch every play they were involved in. Using this isolation with a fresh perspective, I am re-charting plays, making notes, and trying to get a feel for if we are missing or confirming a potential Fantasy star in the making…or we try to confirm whether our fading memories, hype, and surface numbers from last season are leading to a twisted perception?
Today’s study: RB Carlos Hyde, San Francisco
Frank Gore is gone.
Shouldn’t that mean the door is wide-open for Carlos Hyde to be the 49ers’ ‘ace’ starting RB in 2015? Maybe…maybe not.
After Gore left, what maneuvers did the 49ers’ GM Trent Baalke pull at the RB spot this offseason? He signed high-profile, talented, experienced RB Reggie Bush. He also welcomed back solid NFL runner Kendall Hunter from his ACL recovery. Oh, and then he drafted the Carlos Hyde-like Mike Davis in the 4th-round of the 2015 NFL Draft.
I’m not too sure the 49ers are wildly excited by putting all their RB-eggs in the Carlos Hyde basket…at least not nearly as much as the generic Fantasy GMs do. As soon as Reggie Bush joined the 49ers, it was an immediate signal that there was doubt about Hyde, and thus there will be at least a split role of some kind between Bush-Hyde…with Bush likely to siphon off the PPR activity.
Perhaps we need to factor in that behind the 49ers’ corporate curtain, it is possible ‘all things Jim Harbaugh’ may get a cold shoulder by 49ers brass in 2015–and Carlos Hyde could be in that grouping.
Something just doesn’t feel right with assuming a Hyde ascension to the 49ers’ RB-throne. There may be a simple reason why there should be legit FF-skepticism on Hyde ahead for FF-2015+. It might just be, after a year of seeing him up close, that the team realizes Carlos Hyde isn’t all that ‘great’ of a RB prospect…at least not as ‘great’ as the football media hysteria portrayed him going into the 2014 NFL Draft.
I think the 49ers have possibly fallen for a ‘con job’ on Carlos Hyde the likes of which they were burned on Michael Crabtree. I think this ‘con job’ falls into a pattern of GM Trent Baalke’s poor scouting over the years. I believe that Baalke scouts with his eyes, and falls in love with college football media hysteria as much as any GM in the NFL. You have to be beyond delusional to keep drafting the number of injured college stars like they have—Marcus Lattimore as the best example, but there have been several others.
Baalke thinks it is cute or genius to draft successful college players with recent, devastating injuries (ACL, etc.). It should be a major red-flag, but since the players were ‘hype stars’ in college—Baalke seems to collect them like trading cards. I guess he figures that all these injured players will bounce back 100%, and be as successful as they were in college. The problem is that without being able to fully measure a prospect’s skills in the pre-draft period, due to the injuries, Baalke doesn’t know what ‘100%’ even means for the players he’s taking—he’s blindly swinging at a piñata based on which players the football analyst’s ‘liked’ in the recent college season, but not taking into account that most every January ranking of college prospects (based on the eyeball test from the concluded season) for the upcoming NFL Draft is wildly askew.
To me, I almost could not take a player the NFL Draft, if I didn’t have a series of speed-agility-strength measurables to guide me to or fro. I would consider it poor stewardship on my behalf to operate without them. Think about it: You have the needed measurements on 99% of the draft prospects available, but then instead drafted several of the 1% that you had no real idea on because of the lack of pre-draft measurables–it’s a dereliction of duty, to me. If I owned the 49ers, I would have fired Baalke a long time ago for this. It shows incredibly poor talent evaluations (or just pure guessing that anyone could do) and disastrous personnel management. Taking one injury risk gamble player per every five or so years is one thing, but taking (sometimes) multiple risks in each draft—it’s unnecessary. It’s nonsensical.
It is a certain kind of gamble/mistake to draft guys who are rehabbing an ACL (or two) or whatever major injury…that’s risky enough, but even worse is the ‘con job’ I think Michael Crabtree and Carlos Hyde have pulled on the 49ers (and all of us). It’s very suspicious when otherwise healthy RB-WR prospects cannot/will not participate in certain pre-draft measurables/drills…when you look at them on tape and see it might be an issue without the actual measurables.
Crabtree (who was picked when Baalke was Director of Player Personnel) never lived up to his hype, because he simply was not that fast or agile of a WR prospect, relatively speaking—he wasn’t gifted enough for the NFL to be a #10 overall draft pick. We all saw he had good-great hands, but you had to question his speed-agility as it translated ahead to the next level. The 49ers didn’t. *Crabtree had micro fracture foot surgery ‘last second’ pre-Combine. Just my opinion: I think Crabtree’s whole pre-draft activity was suspicious.
Carlos Hyde pulled up with a hamstring on his 40-time trial at the NFL Combine, and then didn’t go to the agility drills. Nor did he do the agility drills at his Pro Day.
An NFL prospect on the caliber of Hyde, would have run the 40-yard and three-cone hundreds of times in private before the NFL Combine. His ‘team’/his ‘handlers’ would know exactly where he was coming in on speed-agility times—and his agent and advisors would know exactly what POOR three cone times would do to his draft status. There is a way around all this possible draft stock hit due to poor agility (or poor anything)—skip them. However, you can’t just decline, or people will know/suspect. You have to have a plausible reason. ‘Tight hammy’ is perfect. Northern Iowa’s David Johnson had to run all the drills to get noticed, plus he knows what he can do—he proudly participated. If I am ‘suspect agile’ Carlos Hyde, with everyone in footballdom pumping me as the top RB prospect…I simply find a way to avoid the issue (Trent Richardson is another great example of the NFL getting fleeced by this, in my opinion). If I am Carlos Hyde pre-Draft 2014, knowing what I know about my agility times, I have everything to lose by running them publicly at the NFL Combine. Hyde didn’t run/record any agility times, which should have been very suspicious, but because Trent Baalke’s eyes are smarter than all of ours—he stepped right into the bear trap…again (Crabtree)…and drafts Hyde.
…and then the team and fans are all shocked when Hyde isn’t all that great of a runner in his NFL debut.
I know that I’ve just split the readers into two groups at this point. Those who trust me wholeheartedly, and are already on my side of this Hyde debate by default (your loyalty speaks well of you). On the other hand, some who don’t trust me or are newer readers who may have ‘liked what they saw’ with watching Hyde at Ohio State or in spots for San Francisco last year. I can ‘dig’ the skepticism. You should be leery. I think it’s a legit ‘leery’ here, because Carlos Hyde is a tricky RB to scout…he is an optical illusion that many fall prey to. Allow me to make my case…
There are three Carlos Hyde’s running the ball, and only one of them is worth a crap in the NFL/Fantasy…and it’s the one most harrowing or limiting to his upside. The other two ‘Carlos Hyde’s’ are the ones that worry me…the ones that cap his upside. Let me explain to you the three Carlos Hyde’s…
NOTE: I just watched every carry Carlos Hyde took in 2014, in order from Week-1 to Week-15 (was hurt in Week-15, and then done for season). I logged every carry he had into three categories. Why three? After the first three games I re-watched, I thought I noticed a pattern. I went back, and started charting Hyde on these three types of simple running play catergories:
1) Straight-ahead runs: No/little hesitation full-speed bursts between the tackles or up-the-middle.
2) Outside runs: Start out between the tackles, but tried to cut it outside the tackles…or just sheer outside runs by design.
3) Hesitation runs: Carries where Hyde became indecisive and noticeably paused in the backfield, and then tried to press on straight or sideways.
*Note—I didn’t count every single 2014 carry in my study. Carries like within a few yards of the goal line isn’t fair to judge because it’s limiting how far the play could have gone, as well as any plays where he was tackled in the backfield before he even got going is not his fault. I tried to eliminate carries that weren’t fair representations of Hyde’s skills (which all is favorable to Hyde’s analysis—I didn’t eliminate/ignore anything ‘good’).
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1) Straight-ahead runs: a.k.a. the carries where Hyde works well…
Here’s where Hyde is at his absolute best: He is lined up as a tailback, he takes a handoff at full speed and hits the given hole quickly off-Guard or off-Tackle. When there is a hole for Hyde to fly through, he goes through very fast, and is one-cut shifty on linebackers and turns in a nice play. I love this version of Carlos Hyde.
There is a problem that occurs with this type of straight-ahead mentality/activity. It’s when Hyde takes the ball full speed, and there is no hole, and he just rams into a wall and goes down with no gains.
The two scenarios above that I just described…also describes the full capabilities/NFL usefulness of about one-third or one-half of the RBs on rosters or practice squads in the NFL today. Any RB with 4.6+ speed and is lugging 220+ pounds is capable of the same outcome. Hit the hole fast, and blocking determines the success/length of the run. 4.5+ runners do it better than 4.6+ runners, but either is fine…IF there is a hole.
There are a lot of 4.6+ runners at 220+ like Carlos Hyde (4.66 at his NFL Combine), he’s not special among RBs given these basic measurables. In 2014, Hyde averaged 4.01 yards per carry overall. However, on 42 running plays like this (straight ‘blasts’ between the Tackles or Guards) that I charted with Hyde from 2014—he averaged 5.11 yards per carry…a full yard better than his overall average. This is a good thing. You want your beefy RB being successful between the tackles. However, there were a lot of four yards or less runs, and a few broken 15-30 yard plays that pulled this average together. The median running play for Hyde here was three-yards—and that is concerning to his true vision and instinct.
We’ll come back to these runs in a moment…
If Hyde out-performed his season averages going up the middle rapidly, then you know what’s going to happen next…
2) Outside runs: a.k.a. the death of Carlos Hyde
On 24 occasions last year, I noted Hyde taking a handoff aimed between the tackles or up-the-middle, but Hyde kicked it to the outside—trying to go around trouble. Only about 2-3 times were plays actually run on purpose with him going to the outside. Mostly, when Hyde goes outside, it wasn’t by design…likely for a very good reason (he’s not good going wide).
Hyde averaged 3.0 yards per carry trying to go outside…and it wasn’t an impressive 3.0 ypc watching them on tape either. Hyde simply has poor agility, poor bounce, and poor change of directions. He is a weak east-west runner. It limits his game down to a ‘between the tackles’ guy. Against Denver, Hyde took the only ‘pitch out’/sweep I saw him get in 2014…and he ran straight outside through a great hole for 13-yards. Take that one aberration outside run away, and Hyde averaged 2.6 yards per carry in 2014 any time he tried to kick an inside run to the outside.
The lack of agility is a major problem. It means defenses are going play to this when Hyde (not Bush) is in the game. It means Hyde is not at his best on swing passes (despite the fact that he has very good hands). The 49ers have used 2nd-round draft pick on a fairly one-dimensional RB—a waste of a draft pick, because there are 25-50+ other RBs in the league, not starting, that can do the same. As a Fantasy GM, with Carlos Hyde, you might have ‘Mark Ingram west’ (only bigger, with better hands).
If you wondered why Reggie Bush was brought in—the agility-issue is probably why. If a dummy like me can see it, I assume others will. Hyde might ‘only’ good for up-the-middle type activity…and you better have a good-great O-Line, in that case.Reggie Bush is the perfect complement with Hyde. They each excel at what the other lacks at.
I watched play after play of Hyde trying to go to the outside in 2014, and nearly every time he would get lassoed or cut down quickly. He loses all his advantage the moment he slows down to shift or decide. You might think that’s true of all RBs, but it’s not. It’s true of some/many. However, the high-end runners can go power up the middle, but they also can go east-west on a dime and make something out of nothing. Hyde makes nothing out of nothing.
3) Hesitation runs…
There were a dozen occasions where Hyde took a handoff aimed for straight-ahead…but took the ball at a reduced speed, and clearly hesitated. Whether he was going to shift east-west or he just got locked up with a closed-off hole, there was a clear pause…and he tried to go elsewhere with the carry. On those 12 occasions, I noted Hyde’s output at 2.0 yards per carry. The median carry was zero yards.
I noted these runs because it was more evidence that Hyde is not a good or high-end stop-start athlete at RB either. When he kicked a run outside fluidly (for him), it was slow to materialize and under-productive. When he really hesitated and tried a more full change of direction, he was cooked.
If Hyde is a ‘poor’ runner when he goes east-west or when he hesitates to shift gears…you only have one ‘real’ path with him—full speed, up-the-middle. When Hyde is taking the ball full speed between the tackles AND THERE IS A HOLE he looks really good—the optical illusion I spoke of earlier. Hyde doesn’t instinctively find holes when he blasts straight-ahead, they have to be where he was going—and he will blaze through them. When the hole is not there, he’s either running into the wall and going down quickly, or he tries to kick it to the outside…and you know how that goes when he tries to change to east-west.
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Hyde is not a gifted runner, per se, he’s just NFL-big with NFL-acceptable (not great) speed, and he can perform ‘fine’ given space to run straight-ahead…better than most humans, but not much more than that—and not better than any other 4.6+ runner at 220+ pounds. I just scouted every carry by Lorenzo Taliaferro (4.5+, 220+ pounds) in 2014 for a similar ‘Rewind’ report, and I am left thinking that the fact that people hold Carlos Hyde in such high regard, but then aren’t really sure Lorenzo Taliaferro is a real NFL player is regretful. Taliaferro is somewhat like Hyde in physical size and style he ran with the Ravens last season—except Taliaferro can go east-west, when needed, as well as anyone in the 2014 draft class at RB.
Hyde went to super-popular Ohio State, and Taliaferro to never on TV Coastal Carolina…and that is the main scouting difference between them to mainstream football analysts (and thus Hyde drafted higher, and thought of much more positively).
With all this, you may think I am sour on Carlos Hyde for Fantasy Football 2015, but I’m not. The 49ers are (supposedly) moving to a traditional power running game sans-Harbaugh, and Hyde is trying to lose weight ‘to get faster on his outside runs’—his words. If Hyde takes 13+ carries a game, mostly all between the tackles, he will be FF-decent for you in 2015. He should get the goal-line action as well. You have something to FF-work with here.
My FF-caution to you is not that ‘Hyde stinks’, but that it’s more the concern or theory that he is overrated—overvalued. Analysts have pushed Hyde bigger than he is, and thus his ADP right now is hot. People have a general ‘positive’ impression of Hyde’s skills…because analysts have told them so. Fantasy GMs really LIKE Hyde, and they LOVE Frank Gore being gone. On the surface, Hyde makes a lot of FF-sense. However, I see the Hyde limitations more than the possibilities. I see Reggie Bush, Mike Davis, andKendall Hunter there…and I wonder whether ‘sharing’ or ‘hot hand’ won’t become the plan.
To me, the ceiling is lower on Hyde than people think. He may be FF-fine, but ‘great’ is likely not on the table. If that’s true, then preseason 2015 (a.k.a. now) is probably Hyde’s peak value…maybe? I would be a trader of Hyde to a ‘true believer’.
In Hyde’s first eight games of the 2015 season, he’ll face, arguably, six of the better/best run defenses in the NFL. Hopefully, there are open holes for him to run fast through, but if not–you will have boring Mark Ingram 2.0 for Fantasy-2015…the Ingram from 2011-2013, not the Ingram blip of 2014 who conned everyone with four good FF-games, in part because he took 23+ carries in each of the four games, causing everyone to go bananas (and because he played at Alabama, and analysts love him…so you know he’s good).
If Hyde gets 23+ carries a game sign me up on him for FF-2015, but cancel any 49ers season ticket plans. I just don’t see how limited Carlos Hyde can be projected so highly for FF-2015, especially in a PPR format, when Reggie Bush was brought in. I’m a seller on Hyde for the price.