INDIANAPOLIS — In Kansas City, Nick Sirianni had Dexter McCluster. In Philadelphia, Frank Reich had Darren Sproles.
Both McCluster and Sproles were listed as running backs on their respective teams’ rosters, but come gameday, the opposing defense could only guess whether they would be seeing those weapons lined up more in the backfield, or perhaps utilized more that week out wide as a receiver.
Now on the Indianapolis Colts’ coaching staff, Sirianni and Reich envision creating similar predicaments for opposing defenses with rookie Nyheim Hines.
Like McCluster and Sproles, Hines is listed as a running back. And, like McCluster and Sproles, Hines is dangerous no matter which way his team finds a way to get the ball in his hands.
Coming out of North Carolina State as the fastest running back in the 2018 NFL Draft class, the Colts just had to figure out a way to get Hines. And that’s just what they did in the fourth round.
“We had our eye on him from the very start,” Reich said of Hines. “I mean, this was a guy who has explosive traits, an elite speed. I think in the history of what our offensive staff has done together with some elite speed guys, it was very easy to picture him in our offense.”
Hines developed his versatility at the college level, where he was initially utilized mostly as a wide receiver before making the move to running back by his final season.
He played in 38 games with 23 starts at N.C. State and would go on to produce 258 carries for 1,399 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns, while adding 89 receptions for 933 yards and another score through the air.
Hines was also electric in the return game; he had 88 kickoff returns for 2,171 yards and two touchdowns, and 11 punt returns for 135 yards and yet another score.
Hines will certainly be in the mix for the Colts’ returner duties, as well, but it’s the seemingly endless possibilities on offense that really get Reich and Sirianni’s minds working.
And, of course, Hines is more than happy to do whatever they ask of him.
“I can be whatever the team needs me [to be],” he said. “If they need me to get 20 carries, I can do that. If they need a receiver because our slot is hurt or our receiver is hurt, I can do that also. I’m just going to do whatever the coaching staff asks me and I am just excited for the opportunity to be here.”
Hines was seen with the ball in his hands at several junctures during the Colts’ rookie minicamp, as well as with his veteran teammates during OTAs before suffering an undisclosed injury and not returning for the remaining on-field portion of the team’s offseason workout program.
He’s one of several rehabbing or otherwise banged-up players that the team hopes is able to make a full return when the team reports to training camp on July 25.
And when he does, Sirianni and Reich will continue working out ways to carve out Hines’ role — whatever it will be on any given week.
“Is he playing running back this week? Is he playing wide receiver this week? What is he? How do I defend him?” Sirianni said, comparing Hines to McCluster. “And now all of a sudden, you’re on the offensive and they’re on the defensive which is the way it’s supposed to be.
“That’s what’s so intriguing about him and obviously his talent, his speed, his quickness. He’s a really smart football player. Sometimes I think it’s hard to move these guys around, especially because they’re swimming in a new system so quick, but he hasn’t missed a beat.”
2018 NFL Draft - 4th Round 104th Overall - NYHEIM HIMES