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Let me start with the tease, and then I will work out the details: Carlos Hyde was arguably the best-looking running back I saw in 2015. I’d say he was the single best runner of the ball (at RB) I witnessed last season, but Doug Martin is very much in that argument as well.
I sensed something was different when I watched the games live last year, but now going back through and re-watching all of his work from 2015 – it’s a different Carlos Hyde.
You team up one of the most talented runners (Hyde) with a coach who wants to run the ball (Chip Kelly) – and you might have the best running back in all of Fantasy 2016…one who is being taken as the 15th–20th Fantasy RB off the board in early redrafts. Incredible value today.
Allow me to explain the journey of how we got here, and why he is still being undervalued by the masses this offseason…and I don’t think he will be for long. There will be a media momentum that will rocket him among the top 10–12 RBs in ADP fairly soon.
I did a ‘Rewind’ study of Carlos Hyde last year as well. In that study, I mocked Hyde. I told people there was nothing but an overrated running back for the 2015 season. So besides the explanation of ‘I’m an idiot‘, how do I go from ‘he sucks’ in 2015 to now claiming he’s great in 2016? I’m not an idiot – I stand by my report from last year, and I’ll stand by my new claim from this year. The reason for the change – Carlos Hyde went from chubby in his final year at Ohio State and in his rookie year in San Francisco to a svelte stud in 2015…a weight-loss transformation that took him from mediocre/good to good/great. Much like what happened with Le’Veon Bell and Doug Martin in recent seasons.
I think the way to trick NFL analysts and scouts in the future is for a top RB prospect to blow off the NFL Combine – and get up over 225–230 pounds…225+ pounds at running back instantly impresses scouts and analysts pre-draft. The next thing you should do is skip all the times and drills at the Combine (unless you’re a David Johnson-like, mythical athlete). Attend the Combine event, but don’t get timed – let the scouts fill in the blanks, and they will do so favorably…especially if you went to Ohio State or Alabama or similar higher-profile schools. After you weigh in bigger at the Combine, you then immediately drop to around 220 pounds for your Pro Day workout, and run your best speeds at your lower weight. Analysts and fans will run with the Combine weight as your reality, and they’ll have to stick with the Pro Day speed-agility times. The best of both worlds. It’s the best way to trick any analytics scout. You can then add back the weight after your Pro Day, if you want to play heavier in the NFL.
Carlos Hyde was working in the 230–235+ pound range at Ohio State and in 2014 for the 49ers…he may have been pushing 240. The extra weight didn’t wear well on Hyde…he ran a 4.66 40-time at his Combine at 230 pounds, and skipped the agility drills (wisely). The ‘baby fat’ also made him a one-dimensional runner. A bull running forward, but when his running back instincts kicked in and he tried to cut things to the outside, NFL defenders squashed him. He couldn’t outmaneuver NFL front sevens moving east-west. I detailed it in last year’s report – his 2014 tape was a mild mess. All that trouble has now changed due to his weight loss. It’s not just assumption. I see the difference on tape. I will swear under oath that in 2014, Hyde was a limited disaster. I will now swear in the 2015 season: he may have been the best pure runner in all the NFL.
When I watched Hyde run the ball in 2015, I was amazed at how smoothly he was gliding across the field. He had tremendous burst through the hole, but he kicked runs to be outside with ease…an ease he did not possess in 2014…or 2013, for that matter. Watching the Hyde transformation in 2015 was truly remarkable…remarkable in the fact that I watched him struggle mightily to go east-west in 2014. However, in 2015, he routinely ran into trouble, and then made spin moves, juke moves, sometimes completely reversing field in a way that you would scream at most running backs for attempting, but Hyde would take a potential 5-yard-loss disaster and reverse field and scurry his way into a 1-5+ yard gain. Not just once, but several times in the half a season he played in 2015. He wasn’t just ‘good’ or ‘really good’ on tape…he was breathtaking at times.
I’d say he was virtually unstoppable as a runner, but the numbers don’t support that – after he burst onto the scene with 168 yards opening day against Minnesota last season, the rest of his 2015 was uneventful. What happened? What happened is that teams got wise right away and started not only putting 7–8 in the box, but beyond that – they were guessing ‘run’ on most normal situations. Because Colin Kaepernick sucked. Because the 49ers offense was so predictable. Because Carlos Hyde was the only thing they had. It was easy for defenses to already be leaning forward pre-snap. It’s what Doug Martin had to fight often in 2015. Once you factor in Hyde having mediocre output for most of 2015, and then getting hurt, and then missing the rest of the season…it was easy for him to fall off the Fantasy radar some. Had he played the entire season, given the workload he was on pace for and the skill with which he was running, he would’ve been very Doug Martin-like – battling for the NFL rushing title on a bad team.
A healthy, slim Carlos Hyde on a Jim Tomsula 49ers team in 2016 might have won the rushing title by virtue of workload. So how much more excited should we be about the pairing of Carlos Hyde and Chip Kelly? Hyde should be a top 10 ADP RB, right now. He isn’t because he doesn’t have the gaudy numbers from last season due to missing half a year…and the 49ers no longer have a national presence/no one cares about them aside from their fan base.
As I’ve mentioned – after opening day 2015, Hyde’s output was mediocre. I watched all his running 2015 plays after his great performance in the opener vs. Minnesota – and all I can say is that the weak numbers were not Hyde’s fault. He looked as terrific in all his games as he did against the Vikings. However, the defenses were more primed on him as the season went on, and he was forced to ‘make lemonade’ on several carries. I think Chip Kelly will make a huge difference in designing an offense that will confuse opponents more than the previous 49ers’ administration.
Teams still have no reasons to fear the 49ers’ pass game in 2016, so defenses playing Chip Kelly to run heavy is going to be the default. I think Kelly can scheme better than Jim Tomsula, but I also recall the Eagles being a mess last season. Kelly has to figure out how to take the heat off the 49ers run game/Hyde, and I think he will…but it’s not a guarantee. When opponents play the run…the first group of them Hyde will face in 2016 is daunting.
Hyde has CAR-SEA-ARI among his first five opponents…three of the top six run defenses from 2015. In his first 10 games, Hyde faces six of the top 11 run defenses from 2015. An opponent not a top run defense from 2015, but one who could be easily, the front-seven-heavy LA Rams…Hyde gets them opening day.
Carlos Hyde, at 220 +/- pounds, is arguably a top 3 running back talent in the NFL. Being teamed with the run-first mindset of Chip Kelly adds rocket fuel to that assertion, for Fantasy purposes. The 2016 schedule, and the overall offense, pump the brakes on that a little. With Hyde tracking as a #13–18 ADP running back in early redraft trends, you can’t help but to proclaim Hyde a 2016 bargain, right now. Emphasis on ‘right now’. Football analysts love nothing more than to assign Chip Kelly magical powers to create Fantasy goodness, even though that has rarely been the case. Pro-Hyde as a ‘huge sleeper’ stories are already beginning to appear. By July’s end, Hyde will be a top 10–12 ADP running back, I predict. If I am right, then the time to buy at a discount is now.
You may have to ‘grin and bear it’ out of the gates in 2016, like with Doug Martin last year, but if/once Hyde pops in this offense…it’s going to be Fantasy gold.