In 2013, not a single running back was taken in the first round of the NFL draft. It was the first time in the draft's history that happened.
If Ohio State's Carlos Hyde is going to not only be the first running back selected in 2014 but also end the first-round dry spell at the position, then he is quite simply going to have to blow scouts' doors off at the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
The tricky part is how he's going to have to do it.
Carlos Didn't Hyde from Defenders at Ohio State
During his career in Columbus, Hyde was usually the sort of player who preferred to meet his problems head-on.
More often than not, he came out on top in that respect.
After falling just short of 1,000 yards on the ground as a junior, Hyde's senior season got off to a rocky start. An altercation with a woman in a Columbus nightclub led to a three-game suspension to start the year.
Once Hyde got back on the field, though, he made up for lost time.
|Carlos Hyde Career Stats|
In Hyde's third game back, he carried the ball 26 times for 168 yards and three touchdowns in a come-from-behind win at Northwestern. After that game, Hyde told reporters, per Jeremy Fowler of CBS Sports, "That suspension, it really hurt, not being out there with my brothers because I made a mistake. I just kept my faith. I prayed to God every night."
Hyde would gain at least 100 yards in every game the rest of the way.
The Cream of 2014's Crop?
The 6'0" 242-pound bruiser would go on to top 1,500 rushing yards in 11 games at one of the most high-profile colleges in the country.
Those gaudy numbers, not surprisingly, caught the eyes of scouts. In fact, by season's end, Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Matt Miller was convinced Hyde is the top running back prospect of 2014:
At 6'0" and 242 pounds, Hyde has the size to punish a defense between the tackles, but this year he showed a second gear to run away from defenders once he cleared the first wave. That combination of power, speed, balance and body lean is what makes Hyde the best back in this year's class.
Outstanding size, explosive power and run strength -- can be his own blocker and create his own holes. Punishes linebackers running downhill and almost always falls forward. Superb contact balance and finishing strength -- does not go down easily and can barrel through arm tackles. Extremely powerful short-yardage/goal-line runner.
However, as with any prospect, Hyde has his issues—his Dr. Jekyll, so to speak.
Besides the obvious off-the-field concerns related to his suspension, Lownes writes that Hyde is "more of a move-the-chains back than a home-run hitter [who] lacks the extra gear to break huge runs [and] shows average acceleration."
NFL.com echoes a similar refrain: "Lacks elite breakaway speed. Average elusiveness and make-you-miss."
In an era of surgical passing attacks and dual-threat backs like Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs and LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles, Hyde is something of a throwback, a between-the-tackles wrecking ball.
|Carlos Hyde 2014 NFL Draft Rankings|
|Site/Ranker||RB Rank||OVR Rank||Proj. Round|
|Bleacher Report/Matt Miller||1||37||2|
|CBS Sports/Rob Rang||3||56||2|
|Optimum Scouting/Eric Galko||3||53*||2|
|Walter Football/Charlie Campbell||2||35||2|
|*QBs not included|
Leading up to the combine, NFL.com's Mike Huguenin put the $64 question in scouts' minds about as well as it can be put:
He's generally considered the top senior back available, and he looks like a protypical power back. He's a 235-pounder, so how quick will he be in the 40? And what kind of athlete is he?
Much to Prove in Indy
That leaves Hyde with work to do at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Mind you, this isn't to say that Hyde needs to go out and run a 4.3-second 40-yard dash. Sure, it would be awesome to watch, but it isn't really realistic for a 230-pound back.
Yes, 230. It seems Hyde slimmed down a touch headed to Indy.
With that said, however, if Hyde's going to be drafted among the first 32 players, the big man needs to come closer to the 4.49 that Trent Richardson turned in two years ago at Alabama's pro day, per CBS Sports, than the 4.59 that Lacy peeled off last year, per Alex Scarborough of TideNation.
No small feat, given that Hyde is still 10 pounds heavier than Richardson.
The "dash for cash" is far from the only portion of the combine where Hyde needs to shine if he's going to break into that first round.
The shuttle drills give Hyde a chance to showcase his lateral quickness and agility. Interviews will offer an opportunity to put last year's troubles behind him once and for all.
Hyde was also very sparingly used as a receiver in Columbus, although Dane Brugler of CBS Sports believes that to actually be an underrated aspect of Hyde's game:
The positional drills in Indianapolis will provide Hyde a chance to prove Brugler right.
To be brutally honest, unless Hyde puts up a historically great performance at the combine, the odds are stacked pretty heavily against him being taken in the first round.
Hyde is far from a consensus pick as the top back, and the fact is the running back position just doesn't carry as much value in the eyes of many NFL front offices as it once did.
However, as ESPN's Pat McManamon reported back in January, there has already been a lot of chatter and speculation connecting Hyde and one NFL team.
That team (the Cleveland Browns) just so happens to have a pair of first-round picks this year and three picks in the top 40.
It also just so happens to have a cavernous hole at running back and a long history of favoring players from The Ohio State University.
So, if Carlos Hyde can put together a strong outing at the 2014 NFL Scouting Combine, even if that showing isn't enough to get him into the first round...
He probably won't have to wait long on Day 2.