Free agency hasn’t officially started yet, but one signing is already causing a clouded picture in the fantasy football landscape. Running back Carlos Hyde signed with the Kansas City Chiefs, presumably cutting into the workload of incumbent running back Damien Williams. Williams filled in admirably for Kareem Hunt and figured to be a key fantasy piece if he was Kansas City’s unquestioned starter. However, with Hyde in the picture, what is the fantasy outlook for both players heading into 2019?
Fantasy Football: How Carlos Hyde Affects Damien Williams
Damien Williams Still the Guy
Carlos Hyde could eat into Williams’ snaps, but Williams will still be the lead back in the Kansas City backfield. By just about every measure possible, Williams is the superior player to Hyde and should keep the starting role.
Williams only started three games last season, so we’re admittedly dealing with a small sample. However, in that small sample, Williams ran for 203 yards and three touchdowns on 34 attempts, good for 5.97 yards-per-carry. In terms of efficiency, Williams had a 63.5% rushing success rate, according to Sharp Football Stats. This success rate was one of the best in the league, as Williams’ was 16% more efficient than the league-average running back.
Hyde, meanwhile, struggled through the 2018 season. Playing for the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns, Hyde recorded just 571 rushing yards and five tackles on 172 carries, good for an underwhelming 3.3 yards-per-carry. This came on the heels of a 2017 season in which he averaged just 3.9 yards-per-carry. In terms of efficiency, Hyde had a 37.7% success rate with Cleveland and a 39.7% success rate with the Jaguars.
Hyde can’t blame his offensive line for his shortcomings, either. According to Football Outsiders, Kansas City finished 2018 with the 16th-best run blocking line in the league. By comparison, the Browns had the 18th-best run blocking line while Jacksonville finished at 21. Basically, Hyde and Williams had similar offensive lines, yet Williams managed to do significantly more with the same type of blocking. Playing in an explosive offense obviously helped Williams, but it doesn’t explain the dramatic disparity in production. Williams should have no trouble beating out Hyde for the starting job, simply because he’s the superior player.
In the Passing Game
Williams is easily the better runner, but running backs need to do more than just run the ball in 2019. Kansas City threw the ball on 61.46% of their offensive plays last season, 10th-most in the league. Of those pass attempts, 17.5% went to the running back position. That target share will probably dip with Kareem Hunt no longer in Kansas City, but somebody will still need to catch passes for the Chiefs.
Neither Williams nor Hyde are natural pass catchers, but Williams is the superior option in this regard as well. During his three regular season starts, Williams recorded 14 receptions on 14 targets for 119 yards and one touchdown. He flashed more receiving ability in the AFC Championship Game when he recorded five receptions for 66 yards and two touchdowns.
Williams flashed the ability to be a strong receiving option out of the backfield, which is more than Hyde can say. The fifth-year running back finished his 2018 season with just six receptions for 29 yards. Granted, he didn’t play on pass-happy offenses, but Hyde’s history doesn’t suggest he can be a threat out of the backfield.
Hyde’s best season as a receiver was easily 2017. During that season, Hyde recorded 59 receptions for 350 yards and no touchdowns. These numbers aren’t fantastic by any means, but they’re serviceable. However, Hyde hasn’t come close to reaching those totals in any other season. When removing 2017 as an outlier, Hyde’s season-high for receptions is just 27 and his season-high for yardage is just 163. Based on everything we know, Williams should be a significantly better receiver than Hyde.
The best way to figure out how a team plans on using their players is to follow the money. All measurables say that Williams is better than Hyde, and Kansas City’s financial investments confirm that analysis. Prior to the end of the 2018 season, Kansas City gave Williams a two-year, $8 million extension to stay on the team and serve as the lead back.
Hyde, meanwhile, received just a one-year deal for nearly $3 million dollars. Williams is getting more money, is younger, and is under contract for a longer time. Kansas City’s plan is to clearly enter the season with Williams as the top option and Hyde as the backup.
Last Word on Damien Williams and Carlos Hyde in Fantasy Football
At first glance, Carlos Hyde signing with the Kansas City Chiefs seems like a dramatic hit to Damien Williams’ fantasy stock. However, a further dive into the numbers shows that Williams should be relatively unaffected, simply because he’s the better all-around back.
Kansas City was always going to bring in another running back, and Damien Williams dynasty owners should be thrilled that Carlos Hyde was the player they chose. Williams is a significantly more efficient and productive runner than Hyde, and Williams showed more as a pass-catcher in three games than Hyde did throughout his five-year career. Quite frankly, there’s no reason for Williams to lose his starting job.
Additionally, the Chiefs have more invested in Williams than they do Hyde. While plans can obviously change over the course of the season, the running backs respective contracts show that Kansas City plans on using Williams as the top option in their running attack. Hyde might take some playing time away from Williams, but there’s no question that Williams will see the majority of the work.
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