There is no question San Francisco 49ers GM Trent Baalke selected the best player on their board when they drafted RB Carlos Hyde in the second-round (No. 57). A punishing runner between the tackles while possessing the patience to allow plays to develop, you can be sure Hyde will be a valuable asset in 2014. Last season, Hyde had 208 carries for 1,521 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns. And while those stats were indeed first-round worthy, it was his off-field behavior that contributed to his second-round selection. Not to mention, his 6-0 and 230 pound frame is second to none on the 49ers roster, you can see why Baalke did not think twice before selecting the former Ohio State Buckeye. However, with established running backs already on the roster where does Hyde fit in?
The 49ers already have workhorse RB Frank Gore as the entrenched starter, but who will be his backup? In an already crowded backfield that features RB Marcus Lattimore, RB Kendall Hunter, and RB LaMichael James, there is no question Hyde will have to start from the bottom. A task easier said than done as Lattimore is on par for a breakout season in 2014, Hyde will need to establish himself early in camp if he hopes to gain the trust of the 49ers coaching staff. And it will need to start with pass-protection.
One of the reasons Hunter and James have seen reduced roles with the team is in direct relation to their inability to pass protect. Two players that are diminutive in size, they simply do not have the strength to ward off blitzing linebackers and hold the point of attack. Gore, who is known as one of the best if not the best pass blocker for running backs, is a main reason he sees the field on obvious passing situations, leaving me to believe Hyde will need to showcase his pass protection skills early.
Aside from needing to make a splash in pass protection, Hyde will need to learn the playbook. From the gaps to hit to blocking assignments, Hyde will need to know the offense inside-and-out if he wants to gain the 49ers coaching staff’s trust. Lattimore, who has had a year under his belt while recovering from a torn ACL, has been looking great this off-season and will be looking to assert himself as the primary backup. Not great news for Hyde but one that will breed competition during training camp and will ultimately bring out the best in both players.
However, in the end it will be Hyde’s on-field production that will determine how much playing time he will receive. If Hyde can prove his worth this off-season with his dedicated work ethic, determination, and heart, that should be enough, as I believe he will spell Gore in short-yardage situations while Lattimore asserts himself as the primary backup in 2014.