2018 Fantasy Football Free Agency: Does Carlos Hyde slide in Cleveland?

Carlos Hyde has found over 1,100 total yards and at least eight touchdowns in each of his last two seasons. It has helped him post back-to-back top-15 finishes among Fantasy Football running backs, and all of this despite just three games with over 100 rush yards and just seven with 100 total yards. 

Between that and some injuries along the way, Hyde has proven to be a touchdown-dependent back who isn't nearly as efficient as others who typically average 18 touches per game. That's not a good combination if you're heading to Cleveland. In the past five years, only one Browns running back (Isaiah Crowell) racked up eight touchdowns and over 1,100 total yards in a season (2016). 

Tack on Duke Johnson's expected role reprisal as a passing downs back, and Hyde's looking at an uphill battle to make it three big years in a row. And that's if the Browns don't add another running back via the draft. 

Immediately, expectations should be in check for Hyde. 

Last year Crowell averaged 12.9 carries and 1.8 catches per game over a full slate. Hyde figures to play in a similar role, so it's not cuckoo to buy into him having the same kind of touches. But we'd argue that the Browns offense will be more multiple under Todd Haley and more competitive with Tyrod Taylor presumably beginning the season as the starter. Hyde could see a smidge of an increase in work rate -- something like 13.5 carries and 2.1 catches per game. 

But is it cuckoo to think he'll play 16 games? He's done it once -- this past season. Projecting him to play 14 games instead of the full 16 is warranted. The math on that means he'd finish with 189 carries and 29 grabs, which would be his worst touch in three years.

You already know the Browns aren't a running back stat factory and the O-line took a hit with Joe Thomas retiring. Behind a suspect O-line last year, Hyde had a career-worst 3.9-yard rushing average. That's not great, but it's not too far off of what he delivered in 2014 and 2015 when he averaged 4.1 yards per rush. There's also the theory that running backs who work with rushing quarterbacks tend to roll better. However long Tyrod Taylor stays under center for the Browns, it should help Hyde. Fantasy owners should feel comfortable with a 4.1 rushing average. As for receiving, Hyde's never had a catch-and-run go for even 20 yards and owns a 5.8 career receiving average. That expectation will do.

As for touchdowns, it's the one area where Hyde has been fairly good, and there's no one else to take goal-line carries away from him.

Early projection for Hyde: 189 carries, 775 yards, six touchdowns, 29 receptions, 168 yards, zero touchdowns. 

Yep, we're calling for Hyde's two-year streak of good numbers to end. Those stats would have made Hyde the No. 24 running back in non-PPR leagues last season and No. 25 in full PPR. So right around that border for the low-end No. 2 running backs is where you should bank on Hyde returning value.

What does it mean for Duke Johnson? Honestly, nothing. Expect him to be used in a similar way to last season -- a good thing since he had a career-high 1,041 total yards and seven scores last season. His receiving prowess makes him the much more appealing choice in PPR leagues, and frankly he's not too far behind in non-PPR.

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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