The folks at Pro Football Focus have been ranking NFL team position groups over the past week, and for the most part, the San Francisco 49ers have been near the bottom. Running backs is one area where they get at least a little more respect. PFF ranked the running back units around the league, and have the 49ers at No. 18. The unit ranks third in the NFC West, behind the Los Angeles Rams (No. 6) and Seattle Seahawks (No. 13), and ahead of the Arizona Cardinals (No. 23).
Naturally, they list Carlos Hyde as the starter. The backups are listed as Kelvin Taylor and Mike Davis, and the key stat listed is that Carlos Hyde has played only 594 total snaps over his first two seasons. Here’s their chunk of analysis on the running backs:
We can assume that Carlos Hyde is healthy, but the 49ers may be wise to keep him in a platoon role. That being said, he certainly impressed in his limited time. On 198 carries over two seasons, Hyde has broken 57 tackles; that’s one of the highest rates in the NFL over that span. 69.7 percent of his yards have come after contact in his career, another superb rate. He has top-10-type talent; he simply needs to prove it over the course of a season.
PFF has been a big fan of Hyde through his first two seasons due to his ability to break tackles. Of course, the physical style that helps him do that is something to be at least a little bit concerned about. He could very well stay healthy, but a physical rushing style can be punishing for both players involved in big hits.
And so, the depth could prove especially important for the 49ers. They did not mention Shaun Draughn or DuJuan Harris among the backups. I see Harris having the higher ceiling of the two, but they were both available midway through the season for a reason. The 49ers have invested in the reserves, but they haven’t exactly spent a ton for them. They signed Draughn and Harris off the street, they spent a fourth round pick on Davis, and they spent a sixth round pick on Taylor. I do think Davis gets this season to prove last year was not what he is as a running back, but even a fourth round pick is not exactly a huge investment if others emerge.
And so, we are left to wait and wonder what kind of depth this running back unit actually has. I don’t think anybody can say with any kind of certainty what this group will do.