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Despite Deep Running Back Class, Colts Must Heavily Consider Carlos Hyde in Free Agency

San Francisco 49ers v Houston Texans Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

As the Indianapolis Colts prepare for a pivotal free agency period in the midst of a continued turnover of the roster, the available talent at some positions of need has begun to dry up. Cornerback and and experienced pass rusher were likely targets before the NFL Draft, however, talents such as Kyle Fuller, Ezekiel Ansah and Demarcus Lawrence have all been designated in one way or another and have thinned the field.

Now, there are those out there to be had at receiver and a few ‘middle-aged’ corners are possible targets within Chris Ballard’s age range of interest, but most of the field as a whole is dated. On the other hand, there are a few running backs — and one in particular — available who could make an immediate impact on the Colts offense in 2018 as the team moves on from Frank Gore.

The Colts have Marlon Mack who offers some game-breaking potential with more development, and despite Ballard voicing that he thought highly about Matt Jones and that Josh Ferguson was still around, the backfield can’t afford to take small steps this offseason. The Colts need a ball carrier that they view as a legitimate starter for the next few years to pair with Mack as he ascends — and — they need to grab one of the talented backs from this draft class.

Carlos Hyde is that guy.

Hyde is on the back half of his 20s and has been a physical playmaker in his short career. He’s gained 1,926 rushing yards on 457 carries (4.2 YPC), 14 rushing touchdowns and has become a valid weapon out of the backfield over the last two seasons. Hyde has hauled in 86 passes at a clip of nearly 6 yards per reception and added 3 touchdowns in that time span as well.

Hyde will turn 28 during the season, but he’s still only been in the league for 4 years, and has only been given the workload of a feature back for the last 2 seasons. Late into the 2017 season the San Francisco 49ers appeared ready to move forward with Matt Breida which has allowed Hyde to hit the market.

Hyde is a big, powerful back with good speed and agility who could be a great pairing alongside Mack. Though Mack is considered a change-of-pace back for the most part, he’s no small guy. Mack comes in at 6-foot, 210 pounds, but has the big play ability needed in an offense that has been missing it for the past decade. In fact, the Colts have only tallied 2 rushing touchdowns of 50 yards or more since 2007 (both via Donald Brown) — tied for 28th in the league in this category.

Not only does Hyde (6-foot, 230 pounds) add more of a ground-and-pound ability back into the backfield that the Colts will be missing without Gore, but allows Mack to grow and doesn’t lay all of the pressure on the Colts to add a running back in the first 2 days of the draft.

Additionally, it doesn’t bring more pressure on said rookie, Mack or even Matt Jones to somehow have to step into a role they’re not ready to take on. With Hyde being a solid pass catcher out of the backfield, it also adds to the unpredictability that Frank Reich is looking for in his offense in Indianapolis.

Though he struggled a bit last season pass protecting and catching (67% catch rate), among the rest of the free agency class, Hyde presents the most upside and has proven that he is more than capable of being an all-purpose back who won’t likely break the bank either.

With new running backs coach Tom Rathman being hired recently, who coached Hyde in San Francisco, you can see some familiarity growing already.

Snags be damned, Hyde carried a top-5 elusive rating of 45.7 per PFF’s free agency guide (among this free agent class), and a pass-blocking grade of 90.2 (7th among FA RBs) and he doesn’t have a ton of miles on those legs either. If you can imagine a backfield with Hyde, Mack and a rookie RB — along with whoever else makes the roster — you would have to understand that to be an immediate upgrade and one less thing for the Colts to worry about coming into the season.

The Colts will fill some lingering holes in their roster very soon, as free agency officially gets underway on March 14th. There are some good options at receiver, legitimate upgrades along the OL and a few excellent possible additions available at linebacker, but if we’re looking at the running back position Carlos Hyde has to be the target if the Colts are hoping to keep from double dipping the position out of the draft.