Hyde Facing Hard Times for NFL Running Backs
By Patrick Murphy
In just over a week the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft will occur. When it does former Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde hopes to achieve a dream to be a professional football player. The 5’11”, 230 pound back may have to wait a little longer than he would like.
According to ESPN’s Draft Expert Mel Kiper, Hyde is the best running back in the draft – and ranks him 30th overall – but says Hyde will have to wait until the second round to hear his name called. Kiper’s most recent Mock Draft projects Hyde going 62nd overall to the New England Patriots and others have him in a similar position.
Photo by Dan Harker
"I definitely feel like I should be regarded as the best running back in this draft," Hyde told reporters at the NFL Combine in February. "I feel like my game does the talking, and if you watch the film you can see that for yourself."
Hyde’s film shows a powerful runner who finished his four-year Buckeye career with 3,198 yards, 37 touchdowns, and a school record 6.1 yards per carry. In his senior season he became head coach Urban Meyer’s first 1,000-yard running back, finishing his final year of eligibility with 1,521 yards.
Hyde’s low stock is due to the recent devaluation of his position at the next level.
Last year’s NFL Draft was the first since the common draft began in 1967 that a running back was not taken in the first round. The two previous years saw a total of four backs taken in the first 32 picks and one in the first 27.
As the NFL becomes a more quarterback-driven league running backs are becoming less valued. Teams are beginning to go to a committee approach in order to prolong the career lives of their backs and paying them less because of their quick drop off.
Hyde’s collegiate running back coach Stan Drayton believes his former player is worthy of a high selection because of what he offers a team.
“A guy like a Carlos Hyde doesn’t come around often,” Drayton said during spring practice.
“When they see a big 235 pound guy run around with agile quickness and catching the ball and doing things like that, how can you say you don’t want that guy on your team? You do want to protect the quarterback, don’t you? If you don’t want him for anything else, you want a 235 pound back there protecting the quarterback.”
As young players see a successful college back like Hyde likely sit and watch other names called at the draft, there is a concern that they may begin to shy away from running back because of the devaluation.
“No, because at the lower levels, they still give the ball to the backs,” Drayton responded when asked about this concern.
“The number one offense in high school football in Ohio is the wing T and that full back is getting that ball and there are still a lot of great high school running backs out there being developed.”
According to Rivals, there are 11 high school running back prospects in their top 100 rankings. Scout and 247Sports each have 13 and 12 respectively, meaning there are still players looking to carry the ball.
“This year alone in the recruiting, 2015 has an unbelievable pool of running backs,” Drayton said. “They’re gonna go somewhere so I’m hoping we can grab a couple here.”
That is not to say players aren’t noticing. OSU Sophomore running back Ezekiel. Elliott admitted that he has perceived what has gone on at the next level, but he’s hoping to prove this mentality wrong.
“A running back’s lifespan is really short so it’s hard for teams to put that much money in a guy’s hand who might not be there for that long,” Elliott said. “So just go out here and represent the running backs and hopefully they start valuing us more.”
The draft value of backs may be falling, but they are still important to the game. Last year’s Super Bowl winner Seattle Seahawks got there on the back of a 1,257 yards and 12 touchdown season by Marshawn Lynch. Auburn’s Tre Mason showcased how valuable a talented running back can be in the 2014 BCS National Title game.
Football has always involved rushing the ball, well before the forward pass was introduced, and that is not going anywhere. This is why Drayton won’t lose sleep due to the perceived devaluation of the position he coaches.
“I guess the only thing I’m going to say is, try to play the game without one,” he said. “That’s all I’ve got to say.”