San Francisco 49ers Running Back Battle: Carlos Hyde vs. Frank Gore
Coming into the 2014 season, the 49ers had a wealth of running backs on their roster. So far, injuries have made possibly the strongest backfield in the NFL into one of the shakiest units. Frank Gore has proven his worth entering his tenth NFL season, a number unheard of for today’s running backs. The 49ers have drafted a running back every year since 2009, including using this year’s second round pick on Ohio State standout Carlos Hyde. Heading into training camp I was not expecting much out of Hyde early in the season, but with injuries to Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James, and Marcus Lattimore it is clear Hyde is in line for an expanded role. Carlos Hyde is a very aggressive downhill runner, with good speed for his powerful 6’0 230 pound frame. He is built similarly to Gore in that respect. Right now in fantasy drafts Frank Gore is being drafted as the #20th running back and #44th player overall. Now compare that to Hyde who is being drafted the #42nd running back and #116th player overall. Quite the difference. I recently completed a ten man fantasy draft where Gore was taken in the third round and I was able to draft Hyde in the 15th round out of 16. Below I will break down why Hyde is the better running back to own this season in fantasy.
1. Frank Gore’s Touches- Father time is well documented when it comes to Gore. He is 31 years old, which makes him the second oldest running back in the NFL, behind only Buffalo’s Fred Jackson who started his career at the age of 27. Gore on the other hand, has been fed the ball since entering the NFL with the Niners’ back in 2005. Gore has averaged 250+ touches a year, a number that is scary to hear for a 31 year old running back. It is well documented that running back play starts to decline once they reach their late 20’s, especially when they hit the dreaded 30 year old mark. Statistically, rushing totals dip by almost 40 percent when a running back hit the age of 30. If Gore can remain healthy this season, it will be due to a decreased workload, and a lot of luck.
2. Carlos Hyde’s Play-Yes it has been a small sample size, but Hyde’s play in the three preseason games has been the lone bright spot for the 49ers offense. The Niners’ have yet to reach the end zone with their starting offense, not something that gives you confidence if you are a 49ers fan. Hyde leads the team in rushing yards with 88, but the most telling statistic I look at in the preseason is yards per attempt (carry). Carlos has an impressive six yards per carry, not bad for the rookie when compared to Gore’s three yards per carry (Gore has a smaller sample size). If Hyde can gain the coaching staff’s trust and confidence his playing will increase every week.
3. The 49ers Want to Save Gore’s Touches- It has been reported that San Francisco will try to limit Gore’s touches until later in the season (November, December, and beyond). This would lead to a split in carries especially early in the season. The 49ers would be smart to use this approach, it allows young fresh legs to take some of the abuse off of Gore’s. Coach Jim Harbaugh has also learned how to keep his team focused on a return trip to the playoffs, and if that means keeping players out of the lineup in order to do so, he will.
With Carlos Hyde being drafted so late in fantasy drafts, he is definitely worth the draft pick. If the 49ers lose Gore to an injury, or just rest, they will turn to Hyde for those touches. That is not a bad running back to own when he is being drafted outside the top 100 players in fantasy.