Note: This is a free preview of a 2015 Draft Sharks Player Profile. DS Insiders will have access to over 300 of these, along with detailed projections, starting next week.
Hyde might prove to be 1 of the summer's most polarizing fantasy prospects.
His opportunity is pretty clear after Frank Gore walked for Indy in free agency. Despite his advancing age and shrinking target totals, Gore's rushing role actually grew slightly over the past 3 seasons. He went from ranking 19th in the league in share of team carries (52.4%) in 2012 to 12th in 2013 (54.7%) and then 9th last season (54.3%).
That difference amounts to less than a carry per game, but the point is that Gore remained the focal point in an evolving backfield -- including last year's version that added Hyde in Round 2 of the draft.
GM Trent Baalke even told CSN Bay Area back in February that the team was "still working on" re-signing Gore. The failure to do so indicates that the Niners didn't want to pay him what he got on the free-agent market. But was their stated desire more a compliment to the veteran or an indictment of Hyde? Perhaps both?
Jim Harbaugh's staff, of course, drafted Hyde last year before the HC left for Michigan and OC Greg Roman for Buffalo this offseason. We probably won't know until the summer what Jim Tomsula's crew really thinks of Hyde, but the situation at least adds uncertainty. Plus, the Niners signed RB Reggie Bush in free agency, and Tomsula has since touted Bush's remaining ability to play an every-down role. San Francisco also drafted RB Mike Davis in Round 4 this year and added a year to the contract of then-injured RB Kendall Hunter last fall.
Bush's presence figures to at least take plenty of passing-down work from Hyde -- when Bush is healthy -- while Hunter and Davis could prove to be non-factors in 2015. That last part will most likely depend on Hyde.
Early offseason reports on him sounded great. Hyde dropped about 10 pounds over the winter, and Baalke said he looked "extremely good" in early team workouts. But then an unspecified leg injury kept him off the field in May's OTAs. That might not prove to be a big deal as long as he’s a full go for training camp, but it certainly doesn't help his pursuit of a workhorse job.
Hyde fared decently in his limited rookie-year action. A weak receiving grade pulled him down to 28th overall among Pro Football Focus' RB ratings, but that's right in the middle of the 57-player pool. And Hyde graded out 23rd in rushing, 1 spot behind Frank Gore and 3 ahead of Bengals RB Jeremy Hill. Football Outsiders gave him a rushing DVOA that would have ranked 14th among RBs had he qualified, just ahead of Saints RB Mark Ingram.
Hyde certainly looked the part of a feature back as he finished up at Ohio State. His senior season produced a 208-1,521-15 rushing line, with 7.3 yards per carry. He added 16 catches for 147 yards (9.2 per reception) and 3 more scores. Hyde averaged 6.1 yards per rush and 8.0 per catch for his college career. His Combine performance delivered a wide range of comparables via Mockdraftable.com, with the closest physical matches being Stevan Ridley and Eddie Lacy. (Todd Gurley also showed up at the bottom of the list.) PlayerProfiler.com points to former Lions RB Mikel Leshoure as his closest athletic comparison.
That collection of names does little to clarify what we can expect from Hyde as a starter -- but that's really the story with him heading into 2015.
Furthering the uncertainty is a new OC, Geep Chryst, who has spent just 2 of his 22 NFL seasons to date as a coordinator. And they came with the crappy offense of the 1999-2000 Chargers. So we can't glean much.
The Niners did advance their downfield passing game by signing WR Torrey Smith in free agency. That element could only help the running game by keeping defenses from loading the box. QB Colin Kaepernick has shown deftness with the deep ball when he has guys who can get there, and TE Vernon Davis has shown he can play that game when healthy.
Kaepernick's mobility also helps the run game as well by giving the defense another rushing threat to worry about. In Washington, for example, RB Alfred Morris has averaged 4.8 yards per rush over 35 career games with Robert Griffin in the lineup; 3.6 over 13 games with other QBs under center.
The key for Hyde will be getting healthy before training camp and then running there the way that he did at Ohio State -- while keeping the same conditioned form that impressed Baalke in February.
Draft Sharks Bottom Line:
Hyde will likely settle into the 3rd round or 4th round in fantasy drafts this summer, assuming he's healthy for training camp. That price makes him risky, especially in PPR. But the upside is there if you feel confident in your 1st few picks and the players you can add in ensuing rounds. The Niners, on whole, enter 2015 with a lot of question marks. But the offense also carries a fair amount of talent and could surprise. Don't treat Hyde as a "must" buy this summer, but rather an intriguing talent to put on a team or 2.
For more on Hyde's 2015 fantasy prospects, check out the Draft Sharks Quickie below.