I can’t promise you that Carlos Hyde or Jeremy Hill will become the next Eddie Lacy, but each of these rookie running backs have a great opportunity to make a fantasy football impact in 2014.
For some fantasy players, drafting a rookie running back can be as confusing as working on a Rubik’s Cube after a few brews. Or working on one sober. If you spent a fourth-round pick on Tavon Austin or a third-round pick on Montee Ball last season, you probably swore off drafting rookies for the rest of your life. If you drafted Lacy or Le’Veon Bell as a third, fourth or fifth-round pick, you will defend drafting rookies until you are buried in the ground. Unfortunately for some fantasy football players, the fear of reaching too early or drafting a bust causes certain players to completely avoid drafting rookies.
When it comes to selecting a first-year player, running backs have a better chance to instantly produce for your team. There are very few quarterbacks as NFL-ready as Andrew Luck and RG3, and wide receivers need time to learn the playbook and generally have stiff competition for targets from their veteran teammates. Rookie running backs, however, normally have less obstacles to instantly produce. Last season, Lacy, Bell, Zac Stacy and Giovani Bernard finished as top-20 players at their positions. Rookie Keenan Allen finished as the 17th-highest scoring wide receiver, and Geno Smith finished as the 20th-highest scoring quarterback. If last season is any indication for this year, it is better to own rookies that will rush the football.
Hyde and Hill are far from being elite starters, but each player has the potential to make a big fantasy impact in their first year on the field. I looked at several statistics and situations to find a conclusion on who should win a spot on your roster, and this is what I found:
Statistics: Rushing and Receiving Yards
Analysis: Each player compiled an impressive number of rushing yards and touchdowns in 2013. Neither player was heavily active in the passing attack during their final college season, but Hyde was able to record three touchdown receptions.
Physical Traits: Hyde stands in at 6-feet tall, 236 pounds. Hill is listed as 6-foot-2, 236 pounds.
Analysis: Each back is almost identical in build.Keep an eye during training camps and pay attention to any writer mentioning weight loss for the purposes of increased speed.
Speed: So we can state that the physical stats between these two rookies is almost identical. We aren’t going to find any distinguishing traits between the two in their physical build, but what about their speed?
Analysis: Well, we aren’t going to be able to separate them in that regard either. Both Hyde and Hill ran a 4.66 40 yard dash at the combine this year, but Hyde reportedly injured his hamstring during the run.
Carlos Hyde and Jeremy Hill’s Performance Against Top-20 Colleges: Even if physical traits and speed can’t help us make a decision on whom to draft, the schedules for these running backs in their final season should help us to form some kind of opinion. Hyde is a product of Ohio State, and Hill played for LSU, so it isn’t like either back had a lack of competition. Both Hyde and Hill faced elite talent, and they were still able to produce solid numbers.
I broke down each players’ statistics when they faced a top-20 team. First, we will take a look at Hyde.
Analysis: His rushing yards were impressive in each of these games, and he proved that he could handle pressure in the spotlight. His touchdown totals and receiving yards are a little worrisome in games against Michigan State and Wisconsin, but his ability to put up big chunks of yards when giving the opportunity is very appealing.
Analysis: If Hill struggled running the ball, he was able to redeem some of his performances with his receiving yards. He struggled against Alabama, but his 47 receiving yards and rushing touchdown would have given him 14 points in standard scoring leagues. His ability to take dump off passes and turn them into big plays is promising, but how many opportunities will he be allowed to act as a receiver?
Carlos Hyde’s Competition: As of right now, Frank Gore is the man to beat. Fantasy analysts have written Gore for dead for more than five years. He is too old, too big, too slow, etc. Since 2005, there have only been two occasions where Gore has not rushed for more than 1,000 yards, and he has scored eight or more touchdowns in any year that he has played in 16 games. Between Gore, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James in 2013, the San Francisco 49ers rushed the ball 366 times. Hunter and James accounted for 90 of those carries, and Gore is supposedly going to lose 50 touches. If Hyde can become the beneficiary of all 90 carries from the previous backs and take on an additional 50, he would be able to touch the ball 140 times.
Now obviously he isn’t going to get 140 carries exactly, but with a healthy Gore in the line up, Hyde should be able to see anywhere from 100-160 carries. If Gore becomes injured, Hyde’s value obviously skyrockets.
Jeremy Hill’s Competition: Hill finds himself in an interesting situation, as he potentially will have competition from two running backs. Even if Bernard is used more in the passing game, he still ran the ball 170 times last season. Veteran BenJarvus Green-Ellis carried the ball 220 times, but he has been working with the second and third-team offense during camp. The rumor mill is pushing the idea that Green-Ellis could actually be traded, and if an interested party can’t be found, he may even be cut. Hill appears to have a good chance of seeing a strong workload, and he gains an advantage over Hyde in that regard.
Fantasy Strength of Schedule For Running Backs: Again, we find ourselves with another metric that isn’t going to help us make a decision on whom to draft. Hyde is considered to have the 22nd-toughest schedule, and Hill is considered to have the 20th according to Fantasy Pros.
ADP: Using the data from Fantasy Football Calculator‘s running back ADP, Hyde is currently a 10th-round pick, while Hill is a ninth-round pick.
Final Verdict: The similarities between these two backs are almost eerie, but there is one key difference that I see. Even if Green-Ellis isn’t traded or cut, he will find himself in a very limited role. Gore is a workhorse, and he won’t stop until you put him down. Hill has a better chance to see more touches, and more touches means more opportunities. Hyde could have all the talent in the world, but if he has 60-70 fewer carries than Hill, it won’t matter.
I still don’t think you would go wrong with owning Hyde, and if you have your starters locked up in the early rounds, you could spend a back-to-back pick on Hill and Hyde. If you plan on being a Gore owner, I am sure you understanding the necessity of handcuffing him with his rookie teammate.
With more opportunities to rush the ball, however, I am going to target Hill over Hyde every time.
Categories: Fantasy Football