Each year, we like to run a series of posts called "90-in-90." The idea is that we'll take a look at every player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few ways. This roster will certainly change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not exactly 90 players in 90 days. At this point, it's a name we're keeping around for street cred.
Heading into the 2014 NFL Draft the 49ers stable of running backs included Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, and "redshirted" rookie Marcus Lattimore. That's why when the 49ers selected Carlos Hyde from Ohio State in the second round, admittedly my initial reaction was one of bewilderment. That feeling only lasted three-four seconds, however. Then, a big smile came across my face and I pumped my fist in the air and yelled ‘Wooooo!'
Despite what appeared to be a crowded but talented backfield, the 49ers future at running back was far from certain. An ever-aging Frank Gore figures to be playing his last season in San Francisco, at least as a starter. There had been some questions surrounding Kendall Hunter’s durability (more on that later) and capability for handling a starter’s workload. No one has ever been able to get a handle on LaMichael James and his future with this team. And Lattimore is still recovering from one of the most gruesome and severe knee injuries in recent memory. All of these things went through my head in the three to four second period between befuddlement and absolute delight.
Expected 2014 Impact:
The 49ers didn’t draft Hyde to have him sit. And with the news that Kendall Hunter has torn his ACL, Hyde will have a major opportunity to make an impact in this offense.
The 6’0, 230 pound power back, will likely now assume the primary backup role to Frank Gore. The 49ers are still not sure about Lattimore and he’ll begin training camp on the PUP list. Even if Lattimore was healthy, I still think Hyde would be the favorite for the back up spot. James had figured to make his impact primarily on special teams. Now, he’ll probably see an uptick in opportunities as well. Especially in the passing game an as a change of pace back.
It was believed the 49ers were going to limit Gore’s workload this season, some believed by as much as 50 carries. With Hunter’s injury news, that may no longer be the plan. Of course, they are expected to throw the ball more and if Hyde can prove he can handle the back up duties with success Gore’s carries can still be managed.
The 49ers have averaged about 500 carries that last three years but that number could come down by as many as 50 or so this year. If I had to take a stab at the breakdown it would look something like this (assuming no other major injuries and that the 49ers do pass more this year than in recent years):
James, Lattimore, Colin Kaepernick, and others: 100
With those 100 (or so) carries and assuming he’ll be the primary goal line back, it’s possible Hyde could amass as many as 10 touchdowns this season. The future is bright in the Bay Area for the big bruising Buckeye.