In 2020, Colts running back Nyheim Hines finished with 862 yards from scrimmage and seven touchdowns. He added 300 more yards on punt returns and 70 on kick returns to finish with 1,232 all-purpose yards.
Hines’ demonstrated versatility and playmaking ability were why Indianapolis signed him to a three-year, $18.6 million extension last September — despite also having running back Jonathan Taylor.
But Hines wasn’t nearly as productive last season. His receptions decreased from 63 to 40, despite having one more game. And his rushing attempts per game went down by 2.3. So he ended the year with 586 yards from scrimmage and three total touchdowns.
Some of the reduced production was a byproduct of Taylor’s emergence as one of the league’s top backs. But former quarterback Carson Wentz also didn’t target the backs as much as he could have in Indianapolis’ offensive scheme.
With Matt Ryan now behind center, the Colts are expecting Hines to once again emerge as a significant playmaker in 2022.
“I think that last year, as we’ve documented well, we got probably a tad more run-centric than we wanted to be, than I wanted us to be,” head coach Frank Reich said this week. “Just worked out the way the dynamics were. Nyheim still made an impact in games but not as much as normal and if you look at his years here, it’s been like every other year where he seems to have a better year.
“I was just laughing with [senior director of football communications Matt] Conti coming in here, talking about Nyheim and I said, ‘If I was a fantasy owner, if I was going to be in a fantasy league, I think I’d pick Nyheim this year. I think I’d consider drafting Nyheim. I think it’s worth [it] to consider drafting him.’”
Reich went on to add that even though the Colts know Hines is a playmaker they’d like to feature, Ryan isn’t going to force him the ball.
“So, it’s incumbent upon us to spread the ball around, number one,” Reich said. “But also, hey, would we like to have Nyheim be up there as far as at the end of the season when you tally up who has the catches, do we want Nyheim to kind of be one of those top three guys? Probably, yeah.”
Hines has not missed a game since entering the league as a fourth-round pick in 2018. Last year, he was on the field for 32 percent of the Colts’ offensive snaps. If Indianapolis is going to truly feature him, that number should go up in 2022.