North Carolina State running back Nyheim Hines has been gaining steam as we approach draft season following a breakout junior campaign with over 1,100 yards rushing, 12 TDs, and 26 receptions. While Hines’s career-long rushing production doesn’t appear that impressive at first glance, he’s much more than simply a runner.
NFL teams have become more willing to deploy RBs as a threat in the passing game and are constantly searching for runners who can create mismatches against linebackers and safeties in space. Can Hines parlay his incredible versatility into an opportunity at the next level?
As mentioned earlier, Hines’s rushing production was limited prior to his junior season.
To be fair, 61 carries in 25 games really isn’t much of an opportunity. The consistency that Hines may have lacked as a runner, he more than made up for as a receiver and kick returner.
Averaging 2.3 receptions per game and 10.5 yards per catch, Hines is much more than just a dump-off option in the passing game, evidenced by multiple starts at wide receiver during his career. His ability to produce in a variety of ways – as a runner, receiver, and returner – is his best attribute. He’s one of just six players since 2000 with at least 1,300 yards rushing, 900 yards receiving, and 2,000 yards on kick returns.
In 2017, Hines posted a Workhorse Score of 42.68, which would have ranked 30th among last year’s RB prospect class. But again, Hines’s contributions in other phases of the game should dull some concerns related to his lack of true workhorse status.
ATHLETICISM AND AGE
In addition to being a standout on the football field, Hines is also an accomplished track and field athlete, collecting All-ACC honors in both the 100 and 60 meter dashes. Judging by his demonstrated speed on the track, we can safely assume Hines will run well at the combine.
If we reference Kevin Cole’s combine regression tree for RBs, and we assume Hines runs a sub 4.5 40 yard dash, we can already expect a 27 percent chance he finds success (defined here as at least one top-12 PPR season in his first three years). Other factors such as height and broad jump could end up hurting Hines, but we know straight-line speed is vital. And at 21.3 years of age, Hines is on the young side of the spectrum of prospects, nearly identical to Saquon Barkley.
How NFL teams end up valuing Hines will be an interesting study in team building and offensive strategy. At 5-foot-9, 197 pounds, he does not fit the prototypical mold of an every-down runner, but his speed, quickness, and deftness as a receiver make him an ideal candidate for a forward-thinking offense.
NFL Draft Scout compares him to Darren Sproles, possibly the best small-bodied RB in NFL history. While Hines cannot claim the same college production, I don’t think the comp is completely outlandish. NDT Scouting’s Jon Ledyard believes Hines is custom built for a zone-read team, possessing quickness, burst, and inside running ability to thrive in that scheme. He tabs Atlanta, San Francisco, Chicago, and Philadelphia as potential fits.
As a potential top-100 draft pick, Hines should get a shot at making an early impact for fantasy purposes. He could also shine immediately in the kick return game. This might not help fantasy owners directly, but will only increase the chances he sticks on a roster and eventually breaks through to a larger role.
Nyheim Hines might be undersized from a traditional RB standpoint. But he’s a dynamic receiver with underrated running ability that could end up as a solid PPR contributor in the right offensive system.