2018 Fantasy Football Draft Prep: Carlos Hyde is a mid-round steal on Draft Day

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CLEVELAND -- Sometimes the best playmakers on a team hide in plain sight. Sometimes all it takes is a homecoming to feel good.

While Jarvis Landry, Josh Gordon, David Njoku, Tyrod Taylor and Baker Mayfield have garnered lots of headlines, many of which come from their appearances on Hard Knocks, new Browns running back Carlos Hyde has slid under the radar.

That is, until Friday night.

In his first football game in the state of Ohio since he played ball at Ohio State in 2013, Hyde took handoffs on the Browns' first three plays from scrimmage versus Buffalo and reeled off runs of 3, 9 and 26 yards. The drive ended six plays later when Hyde jaunted to the right edge, narrowly beating a Bills defender to the pylon. He flashed nice quickness on the nine-yard run, then used his power to deliver a pro-grade stiff-arm to Bills safety Jordan Poyer before rumbling for 26 yards. More of the same was on display when he exploded for a 19-yard gain in the second quarter in what wound up being his last play of the night.

In total, Hyde finished with 64 yards on nine carries with the score, adding a catch that was snuffed out for a five-yard loss. It should be more than enough to cement his status as the Browns' primary back to start the 2018 season.

Hyde told CBS Sports after the game that he's happy to be back "home". The pressure is off and he's able to better focus on what he's doing now. He's also learning his fifth playbook in as many seasons, but this is one that agrees with him.

"I like this one a lot, though," Hyde said. "It gives the running back freedom to just go out and play, not too much thinking, so you just go into a game feeling real confident and you just play your game."

Not that tough playbooks bothered Hyde before. He managed to finish in the top-12 in 2017 and top-15 in 2016, collecting at least 1,150 total yards and eight touchdowns in each of those seasons with the 49ers. The Browns are hoping for a three-peat.

"He's a big guy who has a little more wiggle that people think, but he can run down between the tackles extremely well," coach Hue Jackson said, highlighting Hyde's physical, between-the-tackles nature. "I thought he did a great job of seeing things tonight to put himself in position to make some big runs."

It seemed obvious that Cleveland would deploy Hyde on typical running downs while Duke Johnson worked passing downs, but it was all but confirmed on Friday. Rookie Nick Chubb, who opened his evening with a nice 14-yard gain to make up for his 0.7 rushing average last week, ran with the backups and, despite setting up his touchdown with a good-looking 17-yard run in the fourth quarter, appears stuck on the second-string. Jackson said he's still looking for Chubb's pass protection to come around.

If you're worried about Hyde suffering an injury and missing some time, that's understandable. He played his first 16-game season in 2017 but missed at least two games each of the three years prior.

If you're worried about Hyde getting benched for Chubb, you might be barking up the wrong tree. Through all his ups and downs with the 49ers, Hyde never got benched for poor play. That pedigree might help Fantasy owners begin to buy into Hyde.

There's a stigma that Browns running backs stink for Fantasy. We're not talking about all-stars here, but believe it or not, Jackson's Browns have produced a top-20 Fantasy running back in non-PPR and PPR each of the last two years (Johnson in 2017, Isaiah Crowell in 2016). This despite Jackson giving over 15 carries to a back just 11 times in the past two seasons. These guys tend to find numbers.

And if all that doesn't get your attention, this will: Hyde's current Average Draft Position is 94th overall.

Yeah. A starting running back on a team with potent weapons around him, and a pretty good offensive line to boot, is going in Round 8.

Seems like a situation smart Fantasy owners can take advantage of.

If we were debating drafting Hyde in Round 3 or 4, he'd carry plenty of risk. But this one's a no-brainer if you're finding him in the back-half of your draft. Shoot, you might even go for him in Round 5 if you really need a running back, though ADP suggests you can wait.

Hyde describes himself as an "old-school, downhill and violent" running back. If things go right for him with the Browns, the Ohio State alum can add "incredible Fantasy bargain" to his resume, too. 

So what sleepers should you snatch in your Fantasy Football draft? And which huge running backs do you need to jump all over? Visit SportsLine now to get Fantasy Football cheat sheets from the model that called Alvin Kamara's huge breakout last season and find out. 

Senior Fantasy Writer

Dave Richard has spent nearly his entire career covering the National Football League. Beginning with NFL.com at the boom of the Internet, Richard was that site's first Fantasy Football writer before transitioning... Full Bio

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