When Dion Lewis and Isaiah Crowell struck deals on Tuesday and rumors about a potential landing spot for Carlos Hyde remained eerily quiet, some concern existed for just what the market for Hyde was and fantasy owners wondered if he would find a good home. Then came Wednesday morning and the news broke that Hyde reached agreement on a three-year deal to play for the Cleveland Browns.
Immediately questions arose about what this meant for Cleveland as a potential target for draft prospect Saquon Barkley, who some speculated could be drafted first overall or fourth overall by Cleveland. Some still believe the Browns could draft Barkley with their fourth overall pick as a pure 'best player available' focus and for insurance given Hyde's durability concerns throughout his NFL career.
Cleveland could very well still draft a running back, in fact it's a safe bet they take one. That said, money committed to Hyde in free agency and the team's desire and ongoing efforts to reach a contract extension with running back Duke Johnson, investing a top-45 pick in a running back feels a little unlikely. The 2018 NFL Draft is loaded at the running back position with quality names that could be in play in the third and fourth round of the draft. Simply put, the potential dreams of Barkley in Cleveland are likely over.
So let's jump back to Hyde in Cleveland, a situation that could actually work out quite well for fantasy owners. He is a better back than Crowell, who averaged 4.1 yards per carry and rushed for 853 yards on a winless team and an offense that rarely found anything close to success. That will all be significantly different with the additions of Tyrod Taylor, whose mobility and willingness to run the ball, could open up more running lanes for Hyde. Cleveland will also boast a real passing attack in 2018 and take away opponents ability to just stack the box.
As defenses try to account for Taylor's legs, Josh Gordon running deep and Landry underneath, the defensive personnel on the field will put the Browns in a better situation to run the football. Behind one of the better offensive lines in the NFL, significantly better than the line Hyde ran behind last season in San Francisco, Hyde should find running the ball easier than last season.
Fantasy owners don't need and shouldn't expect Hyde to repeat the 59 receptions he finished with last season, Johnson is Cleveland's pass-catching back. But the situation in Cleveland can put Hyde in position for a 900-plus rushing yard, nine-touchdown season. Those numbers easily lock him in as a strong RB2 in fantasy and the improvements from Cleveland's offense will also help Johnson remain a PPR fantasy contributor.