Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports



It's never an easy task to replace a legend, especially one that happens to be your franchise's all-time leading rusher. But for Carlos Hyde, that's the exact scenario he faces as the San Francisco 49ers look to transition from Frank Gore.

The organization knew there would come a day where Gore would retire and/or move on, and they prepared for the inevitable when they drafted Hyde in the second round in 2014.

The rookie running back was brought along slowly at first, and saw a total of 95 touches (83 rushes and 12 receptions) in his first year. He gained 333 yards on the ground and another 68 through the air, while scoring four times. All in all, respectable totals for someone who was on the field for just 31.5 percent of his team's offensive snaps. But did Hyde show enough overall to be considered, with full confidence, the 49ers' franchise back moving forward?

To get an idea of where Hyde could be headed, let's take a look at where he's been. Granted, 83 carries is a small sample size to work from, but it can still give us a vision of what kind of production we can expect long term.

When you look at Hyde's numbers on the surface, you could make the argument that his stats would give the indication of an inconsistent performance. After all, while he did average 4.0 yards per carry, there were actually seven games where Hyde averaged under four yards per attempt, and was even under three in six of them. When he got nine carries or more (four games), his yards per carry was 2.7 overall.

However, if you looked deeper, you'd find out out that Hyde's 2014 season was kind of an enigma, at least when you consider the support he was given when he had the ball. According to Pro Football Focus, Hyde's numbers would show him to actually be a very consistent performer, despite what essentially adds up to bad blocking on a number of his touches.

On 24 of his 83 rushing attempts, Hyde was hit behind the line of scrimmage (28.9 percent). That was the highest rate among running backs with at least 70 carries. Despite being consistently put in a bad spot, Hyde still managed to gain two yards or more on 51 of his 83 attempts (61.4 percent) which was good for seventh best in the league for backs with the aforementioned 70 or more carries.

The bruising ball carrier was able to accomplish this, mostly because he's so good at gaining yards after initially being engaged. Per Pro Football Focus, Hyde averaged 2.82 yards after contact, good for fifth best. He also produced 25 missed tackles, which was the second best rate behind only Marshawn Lynch.

One area of concern may be whether or not Hyde can break the big play, as he only had one carry of more than 15 yards last season. That could change though simply based on having more opportunity within the course of a game. While Hyde doesn't have breakaway speed per se, he's still capable to getting big yardage when given space.

Based on the facts above, it's safe to say that if Hyde has the support around him he can more than handle the load. Actually, there's a good chance he could become as star sooner than later. For the 49ers, they have to hope that last season was just the tip of the iceberg, and Hyde is indeed ready to explode on the scene. San Francisco needs a centerpiece for their presumably run heavy attack, and there is no one on the roster more suited to get the keys to the car than Hyde.

Al Sacco has covered the 49ers for various sites over the years. He's been a guest on multiple podcasts and had his work used by ESPN NFL Insiders and USA TODAY. Follow Al on Twitter @AlSacco49