49ers running back Marcus Lattimore was one of the hotter names just a couple weeks ago. Glowing reports about his knee rehab accumulated this offseason, Jamey Eisenberg included Lattimore in his Early Sleepers column, and Lattimore seemingly had a great opportunity playing behind aging Frank Gore.
In early drafts on MyFantasyLeague.com, Lattimore was being taken as the 30th RB, ahead of Maurice Jones-Drew, Rashad Jennings, Toby Gerhart and Steven Jackson.
Not anymore. Lattimore's fade began when he admitted this month he still lacks the first-step burst and explosiveness he had in college. Then the 49ers somewhat surprisingly spent a second-round pick on Ohio State's Carlos Hyde, a 230-pound back with a violent running style.
It was a clear sign the 49ers are worried about Gore, who turns 31 on Wednesday and averaged 3.4 yards over his final six games. And it showed a total lack of confidence in Lattimore.
Of course, GM Trent Baalke denied the pick reflected on Lattimore, saying Hyde was a "great value" pick who will create tough competition at running back. Baalke did label Hyde a potential successor to Gore, who's on the last year of his contract.
"I think you can look at it that way in some respects," Baalke told the team's website. "But the bottom line is (Hyde) was the best player available."
Hyde's selection won't affect Kendall Hunter as much as Lattimore. Hunter is a smaller, shiftier back slated for a change-of-pace role.
Baalke compared Hyde to Gore.
“He's not a home-run hitter every time he touches the ball, but he's capable just as Frank has been capable over his career to break some long runs,” Baalke said. “He runs our style of offense very well.
"He's got great vision. He's got great feet and he runs with his pads low. He can make the offensive line better and that's what you're looking for in running backs."
Baalke noted Hyde has the size and strength to excel in pass protection and can make defenders miss at all level of the defense.
Though Lattimore should still be retained in dynasty leagues, he's no longer worth a pick in redraft leagues. Hyde should be drafted in all leagues as a Gore handcuff who could emerge with serious value at any point this season.