San Francisco was once considered an illustrious franchise known as the Gold Standard or Example of Excellence within the NFL. The Patriots have since taken over that title, but the 49ers still have a storied franchise that can never be forgotten about. They have had their share of fantastic running backs including, the Great Roger Craig and still active Frank Gore. Craig was the first player in NFL history to rush for at least 1,000 yards while also having 1,000 yards receiving in the same season. In the same token, Gore had a fantastic 10-year run in San Francisco, in which he ran for 11,073 yards and 64 touchdowns. With Gore being gone to Indianapolis, the questions remain to who can ultimately take over his role in 2015.
In my eyes, the 49ers already have a potential star ready to be his successor in Carlos Hyde. Selected by the 49ers with the No. 57 overall pick in the 2014 NFL draft, Hyde seen limited action as a rookie, but got to see a future Hall of Famer in Gore work as a general on the field. Hyde finished the year with only 83 carries for 333 yards and four touchdowns, plus 12 receptions for 68 yards. Those numbers will definitely change in 2015.
The 49ers were in love with Carlos Hyde so much that they traded up in the 2nd round to select him as the eventual replacement to feature back Frank Gore. They out classed the Buffalo Bills and traded with Dolphins their 63 and 171 for the 57th selection. Anytime you trade 2 for 1, it most likely is a player the organization covets. Assuming that the 49ers continue to use the “bell cow” approach to the running back position as they did with Gore, Hyde should go well upward of 200 carries and have a shot to emerge as one of the best running backs in the NFL this season.
At 6’0″ and 235 pounds, Hyde has the combination of power, elusiveness and burst that is characteristic of a great running back. He is a powerful runner who doesn’t shy away from contact and routinely breaks arm-tackle attempts en route to positive yardage. According to Pro Football Focus, Hyde forced 25 missed tackles within his 83 rushing attempts last season, good for the second-best rate of attempts per missed tackle behind only Seattle Seahawks superstar Marshawn Lynch.
In Hyde you aren’t getting a big or long yardage super sprinter who is going to fill up the stat sheet with ESPN web gems. Instead you will be getting a very consistent runner who rarely gets stopped for negative yardage and keeps the chains moving on a continued basis.
Another underrated aspect of his game is the ability to become a sure handed pass catcher. He showed flashes of consistency catching the ball out of the backfield last year and the ability to make defenders miss in space. That could be a key piece to keep him on the field in passing situations, along with his development of being a solid blocker.
One of his few flaws coming into the league was his lack of field vision and feel for hitting the right running lanes. However, with a year of NFL experience under his belt, as well as more opportunities, Hyde should develop a better feel for the field in 2015. If he can do that, he has all the tools to become one of the most consistently productive runners in the league.
All in all, the 2015 season projects as though it should be a highly productive one for Hyde, and if can break off a few more big plays this season while continuing to break tackles with high frequency, a season of 1,000-plus rushing yards should be well within his reach.
Not everyone agrees that Hyde is the running back most primed for a breakout this season. People are still worried about the involvement of Reggie Bush and Kendall Hunter, especially on 3rd downs. However, with renewed field vision and his commitment to dropping more weight in the offseason to become more elusive, he should be able to hit more holes and keep those guys on the sidelines.
Ultimately, it would be a big surprise if Hyde fails to emerge as an upper-echelon running back in the league this season. With the 49ers’ new offense plans to add more stretch zone concepts into the rushing attack this season and first-year head coach Jim Tomsulas’ commitment to the run , Hyde should still be able to thrive individually as he gets his chance atop an NFL depth chart.
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