Thursday night was a pretty good night for Indianapolis Colts third-year running back Nyheim Hines.
Not only did he turn 24 years old, he enjoyed the most productive game of his NFL career in front of a nationally televised audience on Thursday Night Football as his Indianapolis Colts beat the Tennessee Titans 34-17 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn.
“This is the best birthday ever,” Hines said. “I’ve had surprise birthdays and a lot of things, but I’ve never played on my birthday. I’ve never had a game like this on my birthday. I was actually scared because it was either going to be a good game or a bad game. The Lord blessed me to have a great game. My 24th birthday is a birthday I will never forget for sure.”
Hines was heavily involved from the get-go, leading the Colts in rushing with 12 carries for 70 yards and one touchdown as well as pulling in five receptions for 45 yards and another score. His 115 yards from scrimmage were a single-game career best, and was something that running backs coach Tom Rathman perhaps saw developing early.
"He just came out and he just had fire in his eyes,” Colts head coach Frank Reich said of Hines. “I can't explain it. Coach Rathman came up to me on the sideline and said, ‘Nyheim is on fire.’ I said, ‘Leave him in. Give him a break when he needs a break, but let's ride it.’ He came out ready to play, and he always does. Every now and then, you know how it is, you're in the zone and you got a little extra juice and Nyheim had that out there today."
Hines and Colts fans were thrilled with the performance, and many fantasy football owners were forced to push feelings of frustration from past games aside as Hines cashed in about 26 points.
You see, big performances are nothing new for Hines — Thursday was his third multi-TD game of the season, and fifth of his career. He’s the only player in the NFL this season to have multiple games with both a rushing and a receiving TD (two), and is also tied for the NFL lead in receiving TDs by a running back (four).
But Hines is part of a three-man committee at running back. Because of that, you never know how often he will be used. Fantasy players are more likely to start Colts starting running back Jonathan Taylor, or maybe even Jordan Wilkins in rare recent cases.
Here’s the conundrum: Hines is one of the true boom-or-bust players in fantasy football.
FantasyPros points out Hines has more weekly finishes as RB40 or below (four) as he does RB10 or higher finishes (three). For example, FantasyPros projected Hines to have just 5.3 points on Thursday night. There’s almost no way to project what he’ll do on a weekly basis.
Hines has not been a popular start in fantasy this year — just 39% of Yahoo fantasy leagues even have Hines on a roster as of Week 10.
He is an occasional starter for those fantasy players who do have shares of him, but those big performances don’t come often enough to throw Hines in your starting lineups with confidence.
Sure, he’s been the one constant in the Colts backfield all year, but even that hasn’t been a guarantee.
He had 15 touches for 73 yards and two TDs in Week 1, but followed it up with one touch for four yards the next week.
That was one of three games where he had five or fewer touches before he broke out again two weeks ago against the Detroit Lions for 62 total yards and two TDs on eight touches.
For those fantasy players wanting to chase the Lions performance the next week, they were rewarded with four touches for 38 yards.
Then Thursday night happened.
With guys like Hines, you have to live with the highs and lows and gamble that the weeks you need him, he has one of those big games.
His performances should be all the proof his coaches need that he ought to receive steady touches.
With more than 50 fantasy points in the last three weeks, has Hines earned a spot in your starting lineup moving forward?
Looking for a podcast? Check out the Bleav in Colts Podcast on the Bleav Podcast Network.
(Jake Arthur has covered the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for nearly a decade and is a contributor for the team's official website, Colts.com. He’s on Twitter and Facebook @JakeArthurNFL, and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org.)