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Thursday, 30 April 2015

You Can Run, But You Can't Hyde: The Outlook Of The 49ers' Backfield

The 49ers' off season has been eventful, to say the least.  Borland, Willis, Smith; retired, retired, retired.  New coaches, new wide receivers, new backfield.  There are lots of gaps to be filled, and even more questions to be answered.  That has all the makings for a nice fantasy football sleeper to awaken.  If you're mining for fantasy sleepers, look no further than the team that embodies the gold rush itself. 


The new face to the San Francisco running backs, Carlos Hyde, is in for a much improved 2015 campaign.  Averaging only 4 yards per carry as a rookie, Hyde still showed the explosiveness to take over the 49ers backfield.  Gore escaped to Indianapolis for a chance to compete for a ring in hopes to improve the Colts’ 22nd ranked run offense.  Gore’s departure leaves a large window of opportunity for Hyde. 


Why is he a sleeper? Good question.  You'll see some mock drafts put him as high as a first or second round choice.  Most fantasy football players are looking for starters, like Gore, to depart to open up a great opportunity to reach on a guy like Hyde.  The Hyde Hype might continue to build, too.  However, there are quite a few reasons why most will get wet feet when reaching a few rounds for Carlos Hyde AKA El Guapo.  The main reason: His 2014 stats don't scream "draft me."  333 rushing yards and four touchdowns is nothing to reach too high for in your fantasy football draft.  He hasn't proved anything to anybody yet.  But, with Frank Gore compiling over 1,100 yards and four touchdowns, there wasn't much room for Hyde to relish the opportunity to command the backfield. 


Looking forward, the all-too-seasoned Kendall Hunter will still be a playmaker in that 49ers’ backfield as well.  He won't be taking on the lead role, based on what we've seen; but depending on his ACL recovery from last season, he will snake his way into the rotation.  Reggie Bush, however, is the blanket to the sleeping Buckeye.  Fellow fantasy players are going to be speculating on how many touches he will get, or if the starting job is equally his to compete for.  Head Coach, Jim Tomsula, already talked about how Reggie Bush "can be an every down back."  Absolutely, Jim.  Reggie can be an every down back.  But he won’t be.  At the ripe running age of 30, I can assure you that Jim's plans for Reggie are not to take on the lead role, especially with his injury proneness.  So just sit back and let those rumors spread, because it only means that you're going to steal Hyde for that much cheaper.  Bush is not only a great handcuff for Carlos, he is another weapon for the 49ers to breathe life back into last year's moldy offense.  But pending injury, that's all he is.  Hyde showed some potential to take on Gore's workload from last year.  He just has to prove that his high running style doesn't shake his durability.


As for the line, plagued with a couple of injuries to Anthony Davis and Dan Kilgore, they were less effective than in year's past.  With the recent departure of left guard Mike Iupati to division rival, Arizona, that leaves at least one spot to be filled on the O-line for the rest of the offseason.  To add some depth, they already made an Erik Pears signing during free agency.  Based on his previous stints, though, he won't be a difference maker up front unless the injury bug bites again; but at least this move shows 49ers’ fans that their team is actively looking to improve their big guys.  San Francisco should be grabbing a left guard on the first or second day in Chicago this year.  However, just to be sure, keep an eye to see how they handle their next moves.  Unlike last year, with everyone having a full training camp and no serious injuries, the offensive line’s production should improve from 2014.    


Lastly, what should help is the group full of new, yet old, faces on the coaching staff.  Hyde and Hunter were able to keep their running back coach, Tom Rathman, from the end of the Harbaugh era.   Secondly, offensive coordinator, Geep Chryst, and new head coach, Jim Tomsula, earned promotions but have both been a part of the organization for a few years.  This continuity should help a younger guy like Hyde so he can focus more on his development than getting familiar with new staffing adjustments.  Lots of similar faces, but this won't be the same lethargic offense we saw in 2014.  One rushing touchdown for one of the most dangerous running quarterbacks in the game is a tough stat to look at.  When the 49ers’ can find more creative ways to attack defenses, especially in the red zone, with the likes of Bruce Ellington, Reggie Bush, and Kaepernick, it should open up the inside run lanes for El Guapo to shoot down.     


Exactly like Frank Gore received last year, I expect Hyde to get around 255 carries this fall; and what he does with those carries is ultimately up to him and how he functions within the more lively offense.  Don’t let him slip too far in your fantasy leagues, though.  He could easily match Frank Gore's numbers from the past 4 years, if healthy.   Just watch out. Carlos Hyde may soon be the pride of the faithful. 


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