I really like Carlos Hyde but most teams I talk to prefer Jeremy Hill.
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) April 10, 2014
After several months of hearing Carlos Hyde was the presumptive first back off the board in the 2014 NFL Draft, Daniel Jeremiah made waves a few days ago by suggesting the teams preferred Jeremy Hill, a back we haven’t heard a lot about since his nightmarish Combine.
The very first point here is that both backs are probably overrated. They rank No. 8 and No. 12 in the Fantasy Douche’s final rankings, which are based on an algorithm that is, you know, evidence-based. He would be the first to tell you that the algorithm is the equivalent of “predicting the past.” Sometimes at RotoViz we are criticized for coming up with projections that are essentially backwards-looking. This seems like a strange contention. If anyone has tape of the prospects performing in 2014 NFL games, I will definitely use that instead. (In truth, I’ve been trying to figure out how to write a column entitled “Future Tape” and will probably be doing so soon. Exactly what the content will be that goes with such a quixotic headline . . . well, I’m not sure.)
On the other hand, we often hear that those who do not know the past are likely to repeat it. I usually think this aphorism is also used in questionable context and to support the narrative fallacy, but I’ll make it my friend at least for a moment and thank those who’ve recently been promoting my 2011 column predicting that Mark Ingram would be a bust. This should be obvious, but athleticism matters a great deal in professional sports. If it didn’t, those of us with great intangibles – and I’m assuming all RotoViz readers fit into that category – would also be in the NFL. Carlos Hyde and Jeremy Hill are not great athletes. And that’s a problem.
On the evolutionarily unsupported third hand, draft position is the top predictor for NFL fantasy value. Hyde and Hill are near locks to both go among the top five backs, and they may be picked 1-2. As a result, it’s imperative for dynasty owners to have a sense of how they compare.
The RotoViz Projections
|8||JEREMY HILL||Louisiana State||21.21||233||4.66||–||16.92||116.75||1.33||1.5||59|
|12||CARLOS HYDE||Ohio State||22.3||230||4.66||–||18.91||138.27||1.36||1.45||54|
Hill and Hyde are eerily similar in terms of weight, 40, TDs, and receptions. Both players also struggled badly in the leaping drills. Hyde leads slightly in attempts and yardage but trails in age. We’ve written extensively on the effect of age, going so far as to suggest that for receivers it acts as a skeleton key. It may not be quite as important for runners, but it still leaves Hill with the better score.
In order to make these projections work with Hill and Hyde not performing the 3-cone, the algorithm ignores the drill for these two players. Frequent readers will know I value the agility drills quite a bit. Based on their size and poor performances in the rest of the drills, I think assuming Hill and Hyde avoided these drills to avoid further embarrassment is one of the safer assumptions you can make. If you use the awesome RB Prospect Lab and fill in an Eddie Lacy-like 7.3 for the 3-cone, then Hill’s score drops to 47 and Hyde’s falls to 39. (The score is scaled from 0 to 100 with Steven Jackson at 100 and LaDainian Tomlinson at 99.)
How Explosive Are They?
I recently used the Highlight Yard numbers from the excellent Bill Connelly over at Football Study Hall to help find four under-the-radar backs with electric rushing talent. Highlight Yards can tell us a lot about on-field explosiveness. Frequently our scouting reports on a player do not fit at all with what they actually accomplished, but you can cut through that pretty easily looking at the numbers. In projecting running backs, we often overvalue success rate and undervalue explosiveness.
Here are the numbers for Hyde and Hill.
|Player||Carries||Yards||Yds/Carry||Hlt/Carry||Hlt/Opp||Block Success Rate|
As you can see, Hyde averaged more yards per carry, but he averaged fewer highlight yards per carry (essentially a measure of yards on successfully blocked plays). But that’s just the beginning. Hyde benefited from such incredible blocking that he had the opportunity to break off a big run on a ridiculous 57% of his carries.
I don’t watch film to grade prospects – I watch it for fun. Occasionally, viewing film cutups for entertainment will reveal something so striking it’s almost impossible to ignore. For Hyde, it’s the astonishing number of times he receives the handoff and runs through a hole so large it should probably be labeled something else entirely. (In fact, watching tape of Hyde, you often wonder if defenders are foreshadowing the way Iowa State fans greeted Marcus Smart.) The average block success rate for runners with at least 150 carries was 39%. My favorite undervalued running back prospect – a big back who averaged a stunning 8.0 highlight yards per opportunity – received successful blocking on only 37.5% of his carries.
Hill’s on-field explosiveness, however, is quite impressive (especially for a back who is both big and slow). He came in just behind Lache Seastrunk and Melvin Gordon in this category. When you consider LSU also faced a more difficult schedule than Ohio State, his superior ability to generate long runs helps explain why the NFL prefers him to Hyde.
Who is better in short yardage and goal line?
Rotoworld’s Greg Peshek hand charted every carry for both backs and found more evidence of Hill’s superiority. He led in broken tackle percentage (8.6 to 7.9), third down conversion percentage (86 to 75) and goal-to-go yards per carry (3.5 to 2.7). So, pretty unequivocal.
The NFL is right. Hill is the better prospect, and I’m not sure it’s even particularly close. I think you’d be better off selecting this overlooked potential superstar, but if you’re looking for an early down bruiser in your rookie draft, pick Hill. Make sure to check out where both of these players went in the RotoViz Rookie Mock 2.0.
If you’re looking for under the radar runners to add to your dynasty squad before rookie drafts take place, you might like my Top 10 sleeper article. It correctly anticipated the current Khiry Robinson phenomenon and has been a reader favorite.