Here’s the 2018 NFL Draft profile on running back Nyheim Hines out of NC State breaking down his strengths, weaknesses, video highlights, and if he makes sense for the New York Jets.
The undersized Nyheim Hines is an intriguing prospect in this year’s 2018 NFL Draft class whose raw speed should prompt some team to take a chance on him despite his obvious limitations.
Just a one-year starter at NC State, Hines excelled when given the opportunity to shine rushing for 1,113 yards and 12 touchdowns while averaging a stellar 5.6 yards per carry. He may be small, at just 5’8″ and 197 pounds, but he makes up for it with his exceptional athleticism and pure speed.
This is evidenced by his 4.38 40-yard dash time which ranked ninth out of all participants at this year’s 2018 NFL Combine and was the fastest of the running back class. It’s that type of raw speed that gets talent evaluators attention and it should give Hines a solid chance of hearing his name called early on Day 3 if not even Day 2.
With that, let’s take a look and examine some of Hines’ biggest strength and weaknesses and determine whether or not he would be a good fit for the New York Jets.
Hines is an explosive runner with the ability to break a long touchdown anytime he touches the ball. He is an exciting playmaker with blazing speed whose background in track and field clearly shows on the field. The NC State product has been able to effectively translate his raw speed from the track to the gridiron and that proves to be the biggest strength of his game.
Because of his speed, the Wolfpack preferred to deploy him on mostly outside runs opting to have him run more off-tackle than up the gut. This approach served him well as he was able to use his blinding speed in open space to evade would-be tacklers.
His acceleration is off the charts impressive, likely another product of his track days. His game tape against both Clemson and North Carolina showcases his ability to cutback when given the chance and accelerate rapidly to pull away from defenders. Not only can Hines reach speeds that few who play the game can, but he can reach those speeds quicker than most as well.
One of the more underappreciated aspects of his game is his vision. While one of his common drawbacks is his inability to find running lanes, his film tells a different story. Although he doesn’t have the vision of a player such as Le’Veon Bell, Hines displays above-average ability in this category and his high pickup speed allows him to burst through running lanes with ease.
Hines’ versatility also serves as one of his greatest selling points to potential suitors. The pride of Garner High School was initially recruited to play slot receiver at NC State so his experience as a receiver will likely give some teams a good impression of his catching ability.
The Wolfpack utilized Hines’ speed and versatility in various offensive packages including jet sweeps, speed options, and shovel passes. His experience as a kick and punt returner is the icing on the figurative versatility cake that establishes Hines as a flexible, multi-talented football player.
Despite his incredible speed, Hines’ small stature will prevent him from ever being an every-down running back at the next level. At just 5’8,” Hines is too small to sustain the regular wear and tear of a three-down NFL running back. The undersized back has already had his fair share of injury troubles dating back to his time in college and this will only be compounded at the professional level.
The obvious player comparison that most people will make is to NFL veteran, Darren Sproles. Like Sproles, Hines is a speedy, undersized running back with the ability to return kicks and contribute as a receiver. However, Hines has some more development to go before he’s at the level of the former three-time Pro Bowler.
Consider Sproles to be Hines’ ceiling.
Coming out of college, Hines is not as shifty as Sproles was during his time in the NFL, instead relying more on his raw speed than his elusiveness. The former Freshman All-American has more straight-line speed than change-of-direction agility which could hinder him once he reaches the NFL.
Running backs need to be able to create yards with more than pure speed alone and Hines struggles with that from time to time. Rather than running low to the ground, Hines has a tendency to run too tall which allows him to go down on first contact more frequently than preferred.
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Despite being known as a very good receiving back in college, his game film still reveals quite a few drops. Hines doesn’t always look like a natural receiver despite previously playing the position and it not only affects his ability to catch passes but also his ability to turn upfield after making receptions.
This is concerning as a player of his size must show the ability to contribute in more than one way on offense and any team that picks him in the upcoming draft should be aware of this, in spite of his reputation as a “receiving back.”
The bottom line is that some evaluators view Hines as more of an athlete than a football player. He has fantastic raw speed but his surprisingly low agility and injury concerns will likely scare some teams away.
Current draft analysts have Hines slotted in anywhere from a third to a fifth-round draft pick which opens up a possible union with the Jets. Although the recent signing of Isaiah Crowell gives the Jets a solid three-man rotation between the aforementioned Crowell, the New York mainstay Bilal Powell, and the young Elijah McGuire, the addition of Nyheim Hines would give the team even more versatility in the backfield and even open up the option of cutting Powell if they feel comfortable enough with the other three.
Hines could also be the Jets long-awaited solution to the kick return epidemic that has plagued Gang Green’s special teams for a decade or so. Not since the days of Leon Washington have the Jets had a dynamic return man and Hines could be the answer to the franchise’s prayers.
If the NC State product is still on the board when the team selects in the fourth or fifth rounds, it might be wise to at least consider taking a flyer on the speedy, but undersized tailback. Although the Jets have a myriad of other needs to consider which means running back likely won’t be high on their list of priorities come draft day. At the very least, some team will end up with an extraordinarily fast athlete come draft day and that team’s offense will get just a bit more exciting if Hines is used effectively.