During his final collegiate season at Ohio State, RB Carlos Hyde was dominant.
The 6-0, 230 pound monster of a running back was a force in every way out of the backfield for the Buckeyes, amassing 1,521 rushing yards and scoring 15 touchdowns on the ground in 2013. Hyde also caught 16 passes and scored three more times though the air. He did this despite missing the team’s first three games due to a suspension.
That performance helped catapult Hyde up draft boards, as some experts saw him as the best back coming out that year.
However, because of a perceived devaluing of the running back position, most teams see it as one they can wait on in the draft, which caused Hyde to slip to the end of the second round. The San Francisco 49ers were fortunate he was still available with the 57th overall pick, and they grabbed him with the hopes he would be able to take over for RB Frank Gore at some point.
With Gore now a member of the Indianapolis Colts, it looks like the time could be now for Hyde and the 49ers, as the promising back looks to become a true number one option in only his second season.
To see where Hyde may be going though, we should first take a look at where he’s been.
On the surface, his numbers looked fine enough during his rookie campaign despite missing the last two weeks with an injury. In 14 games, Hyde carried the ball 83 times for 333 yards (a respectable 4.0 average) and scored four times. He even caught 12 passes on 16 targets, which is impressive considering how little the 49ers threw to their running backs under former OC Greg Roman.
Looking deeper though, Hyde’s stats could be a little misleading as they don’t show some of the inconsistencies in his performance.
There were seven games in which Hyde averaged under four yards per attempt, and was actually under three in six of those. Also, when his work load increased, his yards per carry dropped. In the four games Hyde received nine carries or more, he only averaged 2.7 yards per touch.
Depending on where you stand, this may or may not be a concern. Was Hyde going through a learning curve, or did other issues on offense play into his up and down production?
It’s probably a little bit of both, but given how bad the entire offense approach was in 2014, you could argue any skill player would have struggled. Injuries and poor play decimated the offense line, and the passing game was so nonexistent teams could load the box, knowing the 49ers didn’t have anyone to take the top off the defense.
Gore also had a tough time last season, despite what his final numbers would show. Gore’s last two games were dominating, as he gained 302 yards on 51 carries (5.9 yards per carry). However, over the first 14 games, Gore only managed 804 yards on 204 attempts (3.9 yards per carry). Overall, he still finished with the lowest yards per game average of his career at 69.1.
Even with the overall issues, Hyde still showed glimpses of being an explosive runner, at times looking like he was shot out of a cannon. He averaged over 7.0 yards a rush in four games, and may have been the lone offensive bright spot in a 17-7 loss to the Seattle Seahawks in Week 15, gaining 55 yards on six carries.
As 2015 approaches, Hyde will be looked upon to make a major impact, despite the depth chart being loaded at running back. While RB Kendall Hunter, RB Reggie Bush, and RB Mike Davis will be competing for carries, they’ll be doing so in more of a complementary role to Hyde.
The pieces around Hyde will also be upgraded, as the 49ers now have a legit deep threat in WR Torrey Smith, and are hoping for a bounce back season from TE Vernon Davis. If the offensive line can stay healthy, the sky could be the limit for one of the game’s most intriguing young runners.