Carlos Hyde was always considered a talented back after the San Francisco 49ers made him the 57th overall pick in 2014. But after injuries and a string of rough seasons playing with a struggling 49ers offense, he finished his rookie contract and signed with the Cleveland Browns.
#Browns sign RB Carlos Hyde as they continue to fortify offense
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) March 15, 2018
There’s plenty to love and hate here. Perhaps no one on the fantasy landscape has more to gain or lose on draft day than Hyde. He could be a better version of Isaiah Crowell or just another handcuff.
Reasons to Get Excited
Receptions and Touchdowns
Hyde finished eighth among running backs in PPR scoring in 2017. That was thanks in large part to career highs in rushing touchdowns (8), receptions (59) and receiving yards (350). The touchdowns weren’t surprising, but he had never shown receiving ability. Having that in his arsenal will get him some more snaps.
First Full Season
Hyde is still only 27 (28 in September) and he did not miss a game in 2017. He missed 14 games in his first three seasons, so proving he can stay healthy boosts his value. He did this despite only six running backs getting more touches than him. Perhaps the injuries are finally behind him.
Part of the reason for Hyde’s increase in rushing touchdowns was his effectiveness in the red zone. He tied for second in rushes inside the 10-yard line (28) and scored each of his eight touchdowns on such carries. Todd Gurley was the only player to surpass him in carries or touchdowns inside the 10. Plenty of running backs have maintained fantasy value with short touchdowns and Hyde could be next in line.
Reasons to Pump the Brakes
Duke Johnson and/or Saquon Barkley
Of course, Hyde’s value will take a huge hit if the Browns end up drafting Saquon Barkley. There’s no way they would spend such a high draft pick on him just to relegate him to a timeshare with Hyde.
After all, Hyde will already have to compete with Duke Johnson for work in passing situations. If Barkley, Hyde and Johnson are all in Cleveland, Hyde is closer to injury insurance for Barkley than a weekly starter.
There’s also the chance that the Browns will target another highly-rated running back at the top of the second round. That would hurt as well, though not as much as Barkley.
Hyde’s aforementioned injury history can’t be forgotten due to one healthy season. He has suffered injuries pretty much everywhere, including his head, foot, back, shoulder, ankle and both knees. Chances are he’ll revert back to his old self at some point and miss at least a few games.
The Browns have not typically had a potent offense and that isn’t likely to change in 2018. They’ll surely be better with the additions they’ve made and will continue to make before training camp. The problem is it doesn’t take much to improve on 0-16 and many of Cleveland’s skill players could be useless in fantasy.
Hyde’s predecessor, Isaiah Crowell, finished 32nd among running backs in PPR leagues in 2017. He was 39th in points per game among backs who played in at least 10 games. Though Crowell wasn’t as talented, he was certainly more durable, having never missed a game in four seasons with the Browns. Even with that durability, he was barely on the FLEX radar. Hyde’s prospects don’t look as good considering he’ll likely get fewer touches due to injury.
As mentioned, keep an eye on the draft. If the Browns avoid running backs in the first two or three rounds, Hyde should settle in nicely as a mid-to-low-end RB2. Otherwise, he’s a Zero RB dart-throw or possibly no more than a handcuff for those who land Barkley.
Those taking part in any sort of fantasy draft before the upcoming NFL Draft will have to view Hyde as one of the biggest risk-reward players available.
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