Over at NFL.com, they are running down 20 players they expect to "make the leap" in 2015. The list is a mix of young players ranging from second year to sixth year players. They decided to include Sam Bradford on the list, ranking him No. 9. I am not shocked at this primarily because Bradford's move to Philadelphia makes it easy for some folks to assume he can make that next step finally.
One player that was a no-brainer for this list is San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde. The second-year running back comes in at No. 7 on the list. I don't know if this is a ranking of most likely to least likely, or how big a breakthrough they will have, but Hyde is a fitting inclusion. The 49ers signed Reggie Bush to a one-year deal, but Hyde is the guy most expect to take over Frank Gore's role as the lead running back.
Although Hyde only had 83 carries in his rookie season, he did a lot with those carries. Pro Football Focus recently took a look at run length, which provided some interesting information. They looked at which running backs had the lowest and highest percentage of runs for two yards or shorter. Hyde ranked seventh on the lowest list, with 38.6 percent of his runs going for two yards or less. The league leader was Robert Turbin at 32.9 percent. Hyde finished 0.2% ahead of Marshawn Lynch on this list. On the other end, C.J. Spiller led the league with 56.4 percent of his runs stopped for two yards or less.
Hyde's numbers are particularly interesting because of another stat:
Carlos Hyde had the 7th-lowest % of runs of 2 yds or less (38.6%) despite being hit in backfield the most of any RB. https://t.co/5MGZh9jffC— Jeff Deeney (@PFF_Jeff) July 10, 2015
The 49ers offensive line struggled last season, with injuries forcing several replacements. If the unit can find some consistency, that would certainly bode well for Hyde. Furthermore, as the Around The NFL article points out, if the 49ers add more stretch zone concepts, it bodes even better for Hyde. He did a lot of that kind of running in college, so getting him more in his comfort zone this year would be a big plus. He can handle power, but why completely re-invent the wheel if they don't have to.
Around The NFL goes with a projection of 200 carries, 900 yards and nine touchdowns. If the 49ers go with a three-headed rotation, 200 carries could make some sense. Frank Gore averaged 267 carries per season in his final four years with the 49ers (played 16 games each of the four seasons). If the 49ers are committed to a committee of sorts, 200 carries makes a lot of sense for Hyde. And if he gets those numbers with 200 carries, I could definitely live with that.