It’s always interesting to hear things from coaches and personnel people around the league, even if you don’t know exactly where the information is coming from. I enjoy the pieces you see every now and then about how well regarded a player or team might be in the eyes of the evaluators who matter, especially if that player or team is generally considered bad by the fans and media.
SB Nation alum and current ESPN Insider Field Yates has been looking at some top players, in the eyes of personnel people and coaches from around the league. He started with wide receiver, but the position we’re going to focus on is running back, which he covered in his latest post.
Yates asked six folks fitting the above description who the best back in football is and the results are interesting. Dallas Cowboys Rookie Ezekiel Elliott had four of the first place votes, which isn’t shocking given what he’s been able to do on the field.
But Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson also took a vote, surprising but also ... kind of not? Johnson is a very versatile back who can do it all and that has immense value in today’s NFL. Le’Veon Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Devonta Freeman of the Atlanta Falcons also got votes (which adds up to seven so I’m not sure how that happened).
Personally, of that lot, I like Bell the most. But let’s talk about San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde. Yates lists four other backs who were “mentioned in the conversation” and those backs include Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams, Adrian Peterson of the Minnesota Vikings, Melvin Gordon of the San Diego Chargers and, yes, Hyde.
“A surprise name mentioned to me, Hyde's production is perhaps curtailed because of the team he plays on. He has exceptional elusiveness and one coach thought he would be thought of as a top-three or top-five back if playing for a different team.”
That’s what Yates had to say about Hyde. I have to agree with him ... Hyde has all the makings of a great back, but the 49ers simply aren’t a good team. The run blocking is semi-decent most of the time, but that’s about it. Hyde would be dominating in Elliott’s place behind the Cowboys offensive line.