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Advanced analytics site Pro Football Focus continues its position-by-position ranking for all 32 NFL teams. So far, the San Francisco 49ers have not fared well within the rankings. Their quarterback situation ranked 31st out of 32 NFL teams. Their defensive front-seven ranked 23rd and the offensive line ranked 26th.
On Tuesday, Pro Football Focus ranked all 32 teams' group of running backs and the 49ers came in at their highest spot yet. The group led by Carlos Hyde ranked 18th in the league.
"There were no hard-and-fast guidelines, other than to give credence to the players most likely to receive carries, and to assume full health for all players," said Mike Renner of Pro Football Focus.
Renner listed Mike Davis, a 2015 fourth-round draft pick who had a 2015 grade of 55.8, as a backup along with 2016 sixth-round selection Kelvin Taylor. However, anyone that follows the team knows that Davis may not even make the 49ers' roster. Due to the depth at the position, he is considered to be on the "roster bubble."
"Perhaps Chip Kelly's new system that emphasizes the running game can be tailored to Davis' skill set. He does his best work grinding out yards between the tackles, which doesn't necessarily speak to Kelly's history with his zone-blocking based read-option attack," explains Chris Biderman of Niners Wire. "The use of power running plays might be Davis' best chance at succeeding with San Francisco if he makes the roster. He'll need a good showing in training camp and the preseason to do it."
Shaun Draughn, who had a 59.5 grade in 2015, is actually considered to be the top candidate to be Hyde's backup. He wasn't even mentioned in Pro Football Focus' analysis of the group. Other running backs on the roster are Kendall Gaskins, who had a 64.2 grade in 2015, and DuJuan Harris. Harris actually had the highest grade of the team's backup running backs at 77.7, but it was based on a limited pool of 54 run snaps and 44 pass snaps.
As far as Hyde is concerned, Renner points out that he has managed only 594 snaps in two seasons. "We can assume that Carlos Hyde is healthy, but the 49ers may be wise to keep him in a platoon role," says Renner. "That being said, he certainly impressed in his limited time. On 198 carries over two seasons, Hyde has broken 57 tackles; that's one of the highest rates in the NFL over that span. 69.7 percent of his yards have come after contact in his career, another superb rate. He has top-10-type talent; he simply needs to prove it over the course of a season."
Hyde had a 78.8 grade in 2015 from Pro Football Focus. Despite his shortened season due to injury, that was good enough to rank him 19th among running backs in the league. He had a 78.9 grade running the ball, a 68.9 grade catching the ball, and a 54.5 grade pass blocking. His highest run-grade came during Week 1 against the Minnesota Vikings where he had 168 yards on 26 carries and two touchdowns earning him a 95.0 grade.
The 49ers offense will likely feature a heavy running game just as past Chip Kelly teams have done, so Hyde will get the touches in 2016. The knock on him has always been his durability since we have not yet seen him carry the load for a full season.