What's so special about Micah Hyde? You've just drafted the Big Ten's reigning Defensive Back of the Year, winner of the second annual Tatum-Woodson award. And this was not a light year for defensive backs in the Big Ten, either; other contenders included super CB Bradley Roby of Ohio State, Johnny Adams, Darqueze Dennard and Isaiah Lewis of Michigan State, Daimion Stafford of Nebraska and Jordan Kovacs of Michigan. Among others. Point being, this was a loa ded class of defensive backs and Hyde rose above them all in the conferences' eyes.
So what did he do that was so great? Hyde was a stat sheet filler in 2012. Try to find a problem with this stat line: 78 tackles (4th on the team, best among non-LBs), 44 solo tackles (3rd on team), 15 passes defended (best on team by a wide margin), 4.0 tackles-for-loss (5th on team), 3 fumbles recovered (2nd on team), 2 fumbles forced (tied for best on team), 1 INT (not great but we'll get to that). His 11 passes broken up led the Big Ten in 2011 as well. His coverage skills are a known quantity, and against Big Ten competition, that quantity is mighty damn good.
Wow, sounds like a good all-purp—We weren't done. He also scored a touchdown on one of those fumble recoveries and was the only punt returner for the Hawkeyes, returning 16 punts for 119 yards, a 7.4-yard average. Not great, but he was Iowa's punt returner the year prior too. Earning Kirk Ferentz's trust on special teams for two years in a row is no small task.
Return skills are good. Yeah—although it's a little more complicated than that with him, more later on that—but Hyde is responsible for two of the most remarkable touchdowns of the last few years in Iowa history. Here, watch both.
That second one was late in the fourth quarter and proved to be the winning touchdown of the Insight Bowl. And it came against eventual first-round draft pick Blaine Gabbert. Have fun, Jacksonville!
Neat! Yeah, productivity was not a shortcoming for Mr. Hyde.
How are his physical attributes? Here it's a mixed bag. His size, for a cornerback, is downright unimpeachable; he checked in at the combine at a legit 6'0" and 197 pounds. He didn't prove to be a leader at any of the NFL combine drills that he participated in compared to the rest of the defensive backs, but you watch his film and it's obvious that this guy's a serviceable DB at the next level. Is he a long-lost Cromartie? Well, no, not for a lot of reasons, but he can be an immediate upgrade for a lot of NFL teams in search of positional depth at CB.
So... why isn't he going earlier in the draft? Well, that's a valid question, considering we're talking about a guy who's probably not getting drafted until Sunday. So we figure, anyway, but we also didn't figure EJ Manuel would be the only QB taken in the first round (and going at No. 16!), so take the "figuring" for what it is. Anyway, Hyde's stock is not super high, mainly because there isn't a certain aspect of his game at which he has exhibited "surefire NFL starter"-quality talent.
But he's versatile. Ehhhh... about that.
What? He racks up solo tackles, he returns punts, and he defends in the passing game at a high level. His versatility is limited in a way that most GMs are going to be able to see, unfortunately. He can do a lot of things, but he's not doing much other than "cornerback" very well.
He played safety at Iowa for a spell, didn't he? He did. Kinda. In 2011, temporary personnel shortcomings forced him to safety in the early part of the year, and he was still at safety in a secondary that got incinerated by Iowa State QB Steele Jantz, who truly might be fictional, in a stunning 44-41 defeat. Hyde was victimized repeatedly in the defeat and looked out of sorts trying to make multiple reads before and at the snap. As soon as safety Jordan Bernstine (2012 draft pick of the Redskins) returned to the lineup, Hyde was shuttled back to cornerback and we never spoke of the safety experiment again.
Perhaps Hyde can succeed at safety again. He has the size for it and he is athletic. But if your team spent a draft pick on Hyde expecting him to play safety, your team never watched Hyde play safety.
That's not great. Yeah, funny how someone who doesn't go in the first round has holes in his game.
OK, so what else is there? All right, you remember how we mentioned the punt return aspect. And yes, Hyde is a fine improvisor with the ball in his hands, which is all you can ask for. But you see that both of those fantastic returns came on interceptions, not punt returns. There is a reason. That reason is that Hyde was rather return-averse—the last kind of guy you'd want as a return specialist in the NFL. Ace Sanders he ain't.
The stats back this up. Iowa opponents punted 58 times with 14 fair catches and 2 touchbacks in 2012. We wish there was another stat for punts that sailed out of bounds without a return so we could most accurately track returnable punts, but what we've got is 42 non-FC, non-TB punts that went to Iowa in 2012. Hyde attempted a return on 16 of those 42.
Meanwhile, Iowa punted 68 times, and 20 were caught for a fair catch while five more were touchbacks. That's 43 non-FC, non-TB punts that went to opponents in 2012. Opponents attempted a return on 22 of those 43.
You see the issue.
Hyde was notorious for waving off punts and letting them bound past him, neither committing himself to a fair catch and limiting the field position damage of the punt nor taking the punts and attempting to advance the ball to the best of his clearly existent abilities. So time after time, punts bounded harmlessly past an Iowa return man as he waved his hands for his teammates to get away. The opponent would down the punt after a half-field switch in field position, and Iowa would have a long drive in front of it, usually to difficult results.
Ask an Iowa fan. They'll nod grimly.
Says here Hyde got arrested. Does this guy have "character issues"? Ehhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. By definition, yes, but honestly, no. Here's the story on Hyde's arrest. You don't want a guy doing this, obviously, but in the grand scheme of things, "briefly acted like a dick at a bar and didn't feel like sticking around for the cops to talk about it" is about as much a concern as a minor knee scope two months before the draft. Like, you don't want to see it, but it really shouldn't be a deal-breaker if you're actually drafting to help your team.
Will Hyde be awesome? It depends on his usage. He's not a physical press man like Darrelle Revis, but he's still got a skill set that translates very well to a secondary that runs man coverage on the outside and has a good enough pass rush that limits his exposure on long-developing routes. His athleticism is not elite. Maybe it will be after five years in the NFL. It isn't now.
Sell me, then. OK, this actually won't be all that difficult. Iowa has developed a reputation for producing NFL-ready cornerbacks over the last six years, a reputation with every bit as much reliability as its LT pipeline has created, and Micah Hyde is another one of those NFL-ready CBs. In fact, it's kind of amazing that Bradley Fletcher and Charles Godfrey are going ahead of Hyde; Hyde was the superior college CB to both.
But this isn't a "when should we draft Bradley Fletcher" situation. This isn't a "when should we draft Charles Godfrey" situation. This is a "when should anyone draft Micah Hyde" situation, and the answer to that situation is probably pretty damn early.
We'll see soon enough what that means.
So you think this was a good draft pick? Get back to us in a couple years and we'll see .Is that a copout? Yeah, a bit. But Hyde's the kind of guy that you really need to wait and see on, so delivering a verdict right now, months before his debut, is every bit as dumb as it sounds.