When the 49ers drafted running back Carlos Hyde in May, it surprised many NFL analysts.
After all, the Niners had other needs besides running back, and already had Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and Marcus Lattimore on the roster. What did they need with Hyde?
The move even surprised Hyde.
“I was like, ‘They got Frank Gore, some other guys, they don’t really need a running back,” Hyde told Jimmy Durkin of the Bay Area News Group. “I was looking at teams that actually need somebody to come in right now and play right away.”
Yet as things have evolved, the 49ers actually do need someone to play right away.
With Hunter out for the year, James sidelined for a while, Lattimore still not cleared for full contact and Gore likely to be kept in reserve, Hyde and Jewel Hampton figure to get a ton of work in the preseason.
Because of that, the former Ohio State standout could enter Game 1 of the regular season primed and ready to be a key offensive contributor.
On his very first carry as a pro in last week’s exhibition-opening loss to Baltimore, Hyde scooted for 7 yards. And, playing on two series, he had 39 yards on five carries, including one around left end for 19 yards.
“I thought he really ran the ball well,” 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh told Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. “Had good vision. Really lowered his pads. …. He’s light on his feet.”
Hyde could turn out to be one of the major additions to the 49ers offense for 2014.
The 6-foot, 235-pounder is a physical ballcarrier, comfortable running both inside and outside. He was ranked by some as the best running back in the draft, and the fact that the 49ers got him in the second round, with the 57th overall selection, is a steal.
The 49ers want their running backs to do well in pass protection, as well – an area where Gore excels. Failure in that area can limit playing time. But in the game against Baltimore, coaches said Hyde did well in pass blocking.
With Game 1 now behind him, Hyde gets his next opportunity this Sunday against the AFC-champion Broncos at Levi’s Stadium. Already, he has many fans, including NFL.com columnist Adam Schein, who included Hyde among his top Week 1 performers.
“Suddenly tasked as the main man to spell Gore and log meaningful carries in the coming season, Hyde looked the part on Thursday, with his bowling-ball style eating up 39 yards on just five carries against the Ravens,” wrote Schein. “I am a fan. And Hyde’s going to get a lot of opportunities to shine this preseason.”
Niners quarterback Colin Kaepernick already is a big fan, too.
“Carlos Hyde looked really good,” he said after the Ravens game. “He ran explosively, made good decisions, had the speed to hit the edge and create some things inside.”