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Opportunity Knocks for Carlos Hyde

Carlos Hyde Fantasy 2014

The San Francisco 49ers opened training camp last week with one the deepest stable of running backs in the NFL, but over the weekend that group was thinned out considerably.

Carlos Hyde Fantasy 2014

Carlos Hyde 49ersThe San Francisco 49ers opened training camp last week with one the deepest stable of running backs in the NFL, but over the weekend that group was thinned out considerably. Kendall Hunter was lost for the season on Friday after tearing his ACL in practice. Hunter has been the 49ers’ number-two running back in each of his first three seasons in the NFL, accumulating 1,202 yards on 262 carries. One of the players likely to see increased reps in Hunter’s absence was LaMichael James, but the third-year man out of Oregon was carted off the field on Sunday with a dislocated elbow. While the extent of James’ injury is still to be determined, the loss of he and Hunter creates a significant fantasy opportunity for rookie Carlos Hyde.

After a productive career at Ohio State that included 1,521 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns as a senior, Hyde was regarded as one of the top backs in the 2014 NFL draft and the 49ers selected him with the 25th pick of the second round. At 6’0”, 230 pounds, Hyde has the size and strength to be an NFL workhorse. He is a powerful short-yardage and goal-line runner, but is also surprisingly quick in tight spaces. Hyde was likely to be in the mix with Hunter as Frank Gore’s understudy in 2014, but injuries to the only other 49ers rushers with NFL experience put the rookie firmly in the driver’s seat to win the backup job. After being limited in spring workouts, Marcus Lattimore has yet to practice as he works his way back from a serious knee injury and the only other back currently on the roster is practice-teamer Jewel Hampton.

Since Jim Harbaugh became the head coach in 2011, San Francisco has owned one of best rushing attacks in the NFL. Over the last three seasons, no other team has attempted as many runs, the 49ers ranked second in rushing yards, and San Francisco’s 49 touchdowns on the ground were fourth best in the league. Averaging almost 500 carries per year as a team under Harbaugh, the role of the number-two running back in San Francisco carries a great deal of fantasy significance. Gore has averaged 272 rushing attempts per year since 2011, but at 31 years old and with almost 2,200 career carries, it wouldn’t be surprising to see his workload reduced moving forward. Even with Colin Kaepernick stealing touches, there should be plenty of opportunities for other runners to be involved in San Francisco’s offense, and Hyde’s nose from the goal line could earn him red-zone carries early on.

Carlos Hyde FantasyHyde’s biggest obstacle to playing time, as with many rookies, will be his ability to pick up the blitz in pass protection. He wasn’t asked to do a lot of blocking in college, but San Francisco offensive coordinator Greg Roman recently indicated that Hyde is coming along well in that area, saying that NFL pass protection was coming “naturally” to the rookie. Additionally, it was reported during spring workouts that Hyde was displaying great hands in passing drills. Depending on James’ injury status, San Francisco may bring in a veteran running back as insurance, but all signs are pointing to Hyde being very involved in the offense in 2014.

Gridiron Experts has been predicting almost 900 yards and six touchdowns for San Francisco running backs not named Frank Gore this season. With Carlos Hyde now poised to be the most prominent name behind Gore, he could easily account for most of those statistics, which would make him a decent flex option or bye-week replacement in standard fantasy leagues. The combination of talent and opportunity should have Hyde’s fantasy value on the rise over the next month.

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