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Carlos Hyde is an average NFL running back… and that is just fine. He has played well at times, poorly during others, but ultimately carved out a nice role for himself. He has been gainfully employed in the NFL for seven years, which is impressive in its own right. The average NFL career lasts right around three years, and the expected duration for a running back is even less. Hyde deserves plenty of credit for what he has accomplished.
Now reunited with Urban Meyer in Jacksonville (Meyer coached Hyde at OSU, for the non-Buckeye fan), there is a trust and a relationship that could be mutually beneficial from a fantasy football perspective. This is not to say Hyde should be taken in fantasy drafts. He most definitely should not be. We don’t know if a single positional unit should be trusted in a Meyer’s first year as an NFL head coach. But what we do know, is that given opportunity, Hyde can be productive. Meyer has seen this firsthand, and would likely not hesitate to lean on the veteran running back in certain situations.
Any number of those previously mentioned situations could present itself with a young team and inexperienced NFL coach in Jacksonville. Hyde is third on the depth chart at running back, but sits behind Travis Etienne and James Robinson – in some order. Etienne was surprisingly selected in the first round of the 2021 NFL draft, and given the recent history of first round RB’s, the Jaguars plan to use him a lot. It may not be exclusively out of the backfield. The Jags have already discussed plans to potentially split him out wide and use his skills as a receiver. Etienne will not be the Derrick Henry-type; carrying the ball 30 times in a game.
James Robinson is also ahead of Hyde, for good reason. Robinson came out of nowhere last year to lead Jacksonville in rushing and make fantasy football waiver vultures very happy. The Jags dealt with turnover and virus issues at running back, and Robinson earned the starting nod essentially by default. He made the best of his opportunity, and became the fourth undrafted rookie in NFL history to rush for over 1,000 yards. He added 344 yard receiving and totaled 10 touchdowns. While fans and fantasy players may not agree with the drafting of Etienne, the Jacksonville coaching staff obviously felt the need to spend a premium pick at running back even with Robinson in the fold.
If the staff loved James Robinson, I don’t think they would have spent a first rounder on the former Clemson running back. As we’ve seen in recent history, success by rookies at the position is hit-and-miss. Neither of the players ahead of Hyde is a sure thing, so there is a chance he sees the field more than expected. This is completely ignoring injury. The running back position is possibly the most prone to significant injury. If one or both of the top two backs go down, Hyde could be the recipient of between-the-tackles and goal line carries.
Hyde’s own ability and track record should not be discounted. In seasons in which he received 200 or more carries, the former Buckeye bruiser finished with at least 938 yards rushing and six touchdowns. He also eclipsed 1,000 for the first time just two seasons ago. As the starter for the Houston Texans in 2019, he racked up an impressive 1,070 yards on the ground – good for 12th in the league. He was not a passing threat as the lead back, but that was because the team had Duke Johnson in the fold. Hyde has proven capable of filling a receiving role, when he had 59 receptions in 2017. The stats aren’t Dalvin Cook or Alvin Kamara-esque, but if Hyde is given touches, he has a history of being productive in various ways.
The other advantage Hyde has is his relationships and familiarity with leadership in Jacksonville. Meyer obviously coached him in college, and the head coach will have at least some say over the offense. Trent Baalke is the general manager in Jacksonville, and he was the GM for San Francisco when they drafted the former Buckeye in the second round of the 2014 NFL draft. Lastly, the Jags’ passing game coordinator is Brian Schottenheimer. He was the offensive coordinator in Seattle last year, where Hyde played a complementary role for the Seahawks. This group clearly identified the running back as a player they were all fans of and wanted to bring in. Hyde signed for two years and $6 million, which is well beyond the league minimum. Jacksonville invested in Hyde, and he surely hopes to reward the team back with his good play.
Carlos Hyde won’t win you any fantasy football leagues. Odds are, he receives very few touches and is never considered for a fantasy roster spot… But there is always a possibility, especially with running backs, that one or more guys comes completely out of nowhere to be fantasy-relevant. Unlike Jonas Gray in 2014 or his Jags teammate (Robinson) coming into last season, Hyde has a proven track record of success. He will be a complete afterthought, but keep an eye out for injuries in Jacksonville. If one injury or fumbling problem were to occur, don’t be surprised if Urban Meyer feeds Hyde like it is 2013 all over again.