Hyde burst out of the gate in 2016 with 377 rushing yards and six touchdowns in the first five games, but shoulder and knee injuries quickly took the shine off his season and he didn't score a rushing TD in his remaining eight games, although he did produce a 193-yard effort against the Jets in Week 14. At 6-0, 235, Hyde has the size and power to be a prototypical early down back in the NFL, and he showed flashes of being able to contribute in the passing game towards the end of last season, catching three TDs in his last five games on 15 targets. Further development for Hyde in that area could be crucial for him now that former Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has taken the reins in San Francisco, though Shanahan has shown a willingness in the past to adapt his offense and work with what he has, rather than try to force square pegs into round holes. The acquisition of Pro Bowl center Jeremy Zuttah from Baltimore should also help bolster the 49ers' run blocking. There are plenty of question marks around Hyde heading into 2017, but if he can stay healthy, a new coach and offensive scheme could be just what Hyde needs to blossom.
What does Chip Kelly mean to an NFL offense? That depends on which Philadelphia season you focus on. Kelly was something of a miracle worker in 2013 (Nick Foles waves hello); credible in 2014; and run out of town after a nightmare 2015. So whatever narrative you want to build on Kelly working with Hyde this year, you'll be able to find supporting ammunition. After making it through most of his rookie season (a bum ankle cost him two games), a foot injury torpedoed Hyde for nine games last year. He eventually had the wheel surgically repaired in January. Player and team are confident Hyde will be on schedule for the summertime work. The 49ers just don't want Hyde to be the man this year, they desperately need him as such. The rest of the depth chart is fairly pedestrian, with Shaun Draughn the nominal backup. It remains to be seen if the new regime can get Hyde up to speed on third down; he has just 31 targets in two professional seasons. His longest catch in San Francisco is just 16 yards. Anyone invested in Hyde this year is hoping Kelly and staff can somehow find a way to keep games close, cobbling together a competitive club. Otherwise, Hyde's likely to be a victim of game flow. So, are you drinking the Kelly Kool-Aid?
For the first time in a decade, Frank Gore will not be the starting running back for the 49ers. That honor falls to Hyde, a 2014 second-round pick, after Gore left in free agency. A big, physical runner, Hyde has burst and power that allow him to take advantage of holes and grind out yards after contact, along with the soft hands and blitz pickup skills to stay on the field in passing downs. Hyde's touches were limited as a rookie behind Gore, but despite the additions of Reggie Bush as a free agent and fourth-round pick Mike Davis, Hyde is the favorite to take over as the lead runner in a crowded backfield. He lost 15 pounds in the offseason to add some speed and prepare for the transition from depth player to three-down feature back. The biggest threat to Hyde's value might come from San Francisco's coaching changes. New offensive coordinator Geep Chryst, promoted from QB coach, seems intent on running more read-option with Colin Kaepernick, which could result in more carries for Kaepernick and fewer for the running backs. Even if he doesn't inherit Gore's full workload, however, Hyde's prospects for a productive season are still excellent.
Even with no need at running back, San Francisco spent a second-round pick on Hyde, a 6-foot, 230-pound bull who rushed for 1,521 yards on just 208 carries (7.3 YPC) at Ohio State last year. Hyde doesn't have home-run speed and isn't a very good receiver, but he's very fast for a big back and should immediately find some role in the Niners' rotation as they spend this season figuring out who's going to be the successor to Frank Gore. Hyde is currently slated to be the primary backup behind Gore with the potential to earn goal line carries.