Editor’s note: Insider Matt Maiocco concludes his analysis of each position group leading up to 49ers training camp. The full squad reports on Saturday with the first practice scheduled for Sunday.
The 49ers want to run the football under first-year coach Chip Kelly. He said it himself this offseason, as he was quick to point out the successes of the Philadelphia ground game under his direction.
Again, the 49ers' hope for establishing a strong running game likely hinges on Carlos Hyde's availability. The 49ers opted against extending a multi-year proposal last year to the organization’s all-team leading rusher, Frank Gore. Instead, they placed all their trust in Hyde. But after rushing for a career-high 168 yards in the season opener, Hyde averaged less than 4.0 yards per attempt in five of the next six games before sitting out the remainder of the season due to a foot injury.
Does Hyde have to change his running style?
Hyde has a chance to be a very good NFL running back because of his style. There are certainly times when he can avoid contact, but he’s a hard-charging runner, and that’s why the 49ers love him.
He has missed 11 games due to ankle and foot injuries in his first two seasons. Those injuries were not a result of fighting for extra yards. Still, the 49ers’ hopes for a strong run game rest almost entirely on Hyde’s ability to remain on the field for the entire season.
Who’s in line to be the primary backup?
Draughn has experienced a difficult time sticking anywhere in his NFL career, but he does offer the 49ers a lot of value. His best attribute is his versatility. He’s an adequate runner, a very good receiver and a special-teams player worthy of consideration for a roster spot based solely on those contributions.
How about the two recent draft picks?
Davis was a fourth-round pick last year. He appeared in just six games and averaged 1.7 yards per attempt. The former coaching staff was frustrated by his failure to spot promising running lanes. But because he only carried 35 times as a rookie, Davis can basically rest assured that he opens this training camp with a clean slate.
Taylor is a sixth-round pick who showed promise during the offseason program. He has the pedigree. His father, Fred, was an outstanding running back with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Davis and Taylor will certainly be in direct competition for roles on the 49ers’ depth chart.