As we begin the countdown to the NFL Draft starting on May 8, I will spend anywhere from 4-8 hours to break down the strengths and weaknesses of at least the top 20 or so offensive skill-position prospects available in this draft.
College: Ohio State
Hands: 9 1/2”
Important NFL Combine Numbers
40-Yard Dash: 4.66
Vertical Jump: 34 1/2”
Broad Jump: 9’ 6”
20-Yard Shuttle: N/A
Background (College Stats)
After growing up in Cincinnati and beginning his high school education in Ohio, Hyde moved to Naples, Fla. to complete his schooling. Rivals.com ranked him as a four-star player and the second-best fullback prospect in the country in 2008. Ohio State saw him as a viable big-back replacement for Chris “Beanie” Wells and convinced him of such, allowing the Buckeyes to beat out Florida, Miami (Fla.), Florida State and a host of other schools for his services. However, Hyde spent the 2009 fall semester at Fork Union Military Academy (Va.) in order to raise his ACT scores because he didn’t qualify academically right away. He finally landed in Columbus for good in January 2010 and played second-fiddle to Dan “Boom” Herron over his first two seasons before breaking out with 970 yards and 16 rushing touchdowns as a junior despite missing two games (and part of a third) with an ankle injury. Hyde found himself in hot water in July 2013 when Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer suspended him three games for “conduct not representative of this football program or this university” when he attempted to strike a woman in a bar. Although he avoided any criminal charges, Meyer stuck to his punishment and it appeared to light a fire under Hyde, who became the first Meyer-coached back to rush for at least 1,000 yards. The 2013 first-team All-Big Ten selection finished his final season with 1,521 yards rushing – good for the 13th-best mark in the country – and accomplished the feat by posting at least 111 yards in each of his last nine contests.
- North-and-south runner that typically powers through the first tackle and almost always gets at least 2-3 yards after contact; should be a top-level goal-line back right away.
- Is not strictly a straight-line bulldozer; light on his feet, shows good balance and can change direction better than expected for a player of his size.
- Ball security (career fumble percentage of 0.7); shows good fundamentals in terms of keeping the ball tight to his frame and covers it with two hands in traffic.
- Decisive runner that accelerates quickly, allowing him to pack even more of a punch when he makes contact with a defender.
- A rare college power back that was not overexposed (523 career carries in four years with no more than 208 in any season).
- More of a between-the-tackles runner that lacks the speed to consistently break a big run, although he showed much more big-play ability in 2013 after dropping roughly 15 pounds from the previous season.
- Showed the ability to catch the ball out of the backfield when used in that fashion, but is little more than a safety-valve/check-down option at this point (34 career receptions, including just 16 in his final season).
- Not an upright runner, but tends to lower his shoulder a split-second too late – absorbing more punishment than he should – and relies a bit too much on bulk to power over defenders.
- Dealt with injuries, conditioning issues and off-field concerns in college (was the suspension enough to “wake him up” or will he constantly need outside motivation?).
- Has the build and desire to be a good blocker, but should dominate in that area more often than he does.
Meyer hasn’t exactly lined up a who’s who of running backs in his 12 seasons as a college coach and generally spread the rushing load as a result, but it is still pretty telling that Hyde became the first one of his backs to surpass 1,000 yards in a season. Much like Eddie Lacy the year before he was drafted, Hyde was more of a big back without much suddenness in the year before he made himself available in the draft. Again, like Lacy, Hyde went from merely a big back to a powerful back capable of carrying the load in his final college season. Even as inflated as some of the yards-per-carry averages are in college football, Hyde’s 7.3 mark in 2013 is an incredibly high number for a 230-pound back – especially one in a BCS conference. Still, it is hard to overlook the fact that the third-team AP All-American was unable to put together a full season in any of his four years AND that he needed Meyer’s tough love to maximize his talent, but it isn’t overly difficult to understand why he is considered by some to be the best back in this draft. Finding agile big backs with a bit of explosion is a tough gig and Hyde is one of those few backs. As suggested above, he is a likely “foundation” back at the next level in the Morris and/or Stacy mold, capable of carrying his team’s running game so long as he maintains the same kind of work ethic that enabled him to hit the ground running following his suspension to begin the 2013 season. His draft stock will almost certainly get dinged a bit due to his character/injury history (and rightfully so), but the tools and talent are there for Hyde to be an above-average NFL running back if he wants it bad enough.