Last season, Carlos Hyde came just short of eclipsing 1,000 yards for the first time in his career. He enters this season facing a serious challenge from Tim Hightower, Joe Williams, and Matt Breida for a short- and long-term role in the San Francisco 49ers backfield.
Hyde showed some signs last season, but injuries cost him three games. By season’s end, he had 988 rushing yards on 217 carries. That 4.55 yards per carry average was good for 11th in the NFL.
Recently, Football Perspective writer Chase Stuart put together an article titled, “Take Away His X Best Carries In 2016 And He’s Average.” The idea is that you sort running backs in descending order by yards gained. Then you see how many carries you would need to take away from their totals to drop production at or below average.
Last season, the NFL had 42 running backs carry the ball at least 100 times. Those 42 running backs averaged 4.19 yards per carry. 19 running backs exceeded that average, including Hyde. Mike Gillislee led the league with 5.7 yards per carry, and the top five was rounded out by Bilal Powell (5.51), LeSean McCoy (5.41), Jordan Howard (5.21), and Mark Ingram (5.09).
From this group, Powell was highest in terms of number of rushing attempts that would need to be removed to bring him down to league average. You would need to remove his 12 highest rushing attempts. McCoy and Elliott were next at nine. Hyde was near the bottom at two rushing attempts. Against the New York Jets, Hyde rushed for 193 yards. He had rushes of 47 yards and 43 yards, where if removed, would lower his 4.55 yards per carry to 4.18 yards per carry.
It’s interesting to see who benefited most from a particularly big run or two. If you remove those two runs from Hyde’s tally, he’s at 898 yards. Obviously you can’t just remove them, but it’s worth factoring in when you look at a player’s season-ending total.
Hyde had a career-high 217 rushing attempts, to go along with 27 receptions on 33 targets. In this year’s offense, I could see his rushing attempts remaining the same or going down, and his target total remaining the same or increasing. Tim Hightower will get a lot of looks in the passing game, but Hyde will be get plenty of his own in that short-passing game. This doesn’t even factor in Joe Williams and Matt Breida. One or both will make the 49ers roster this season, and likely get some action fairly regularly. That’s where I see Hyde’s rushing attempts coming down a bit.