For nearly a decade, San Francisco 49ers RB Frank Gore put to bed any thought of another back taking his touches away. He has been the definition of a workhorse back, registering at least 249 touches every season since his rookie year in 2005.
However, that workload will catch up to Gore and he will eventually decline as a result. At 31 years old, his decline could start this season. Carlos Hyde may be the answer if that were to happen or if Gore were to get hurt.
As for Hyde, he is a back with significant upside. In college, he rushed for a total of 3,198 yards and 37 touchdowns in just over three years. He averaged over five YPC in each of those years, including a fantastic 7.3 YPC average in his senior season.
Hyde may not be the fastest RB out there ( 4.61 40-yard dash at the combine), but he is among the biggest and strongest backs in the game. He can power his way to big runs as well as anyone and he has very good field awareness. He is decent in pass protection as well.
He should have a clear path to playing time right out of the gate. Kendall Hunter is done for the season, LaMichael James will miss the first 4-6 weeks of the season and Marcus Lattimore is “not quite there yet” according to Jim Harbaugh. While it is unclear if Hyde can unseat Gore as the primary back right away, he is certainly getting a lot of preseason playing time.
In Week 2, Gore played just 3 snaps while Hyde saw the most time with the starters. He also started in preseason week 1. Gore still might be the starter to open the year, but the 49ers are preparing for Hyde to take over at some point soon. He should at the very least, open the season as the team’s primary backup and earn a decent number of goal line carries.
He will be able to secure a solid workload from the get-go. San Francisco will want to keep Gore fresh throughout the season and Hyde should be able to capitalize on that. He should provide fantasy owners with a few hundred yards and possibly a handful of touchdowns on the ground, even if Gore stays healthy and productive. If not, he could provide low-end RB1 value. Either way, Hyde is a guy to take a flier on as a potential fantasy football sleeper this season.