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Carlos Hyde is one the 49ers most talented offensive players. He also may not be on the team by Week 1. Such is life when you have a new coach who wants his guys. 

The 49ers spent much of the summer publicly debating whether Hyde could fit in their system. Hyde must have thought they were talked about a literal "fit", because he trimmed down to 228 pounds, his lowest weight since high school. General Manager John Lynch noticed and commented on how great Lynch looked at the start of camp. Of course, Lynch may just be trying to build Hyde's trade value.

Since Hyde is on the team right now, and because I believe he's an exceptionally talented back, this piece is based on the assumption Hyde will be the starting running back for the 49ers. 

Well, except for the next paragraph.

Joe Williams has garnered a lot of hype because of how much Kyle Shanahan wanted him on the team. Williams has blazing speed and is good in the zone-blocking scheme. If Hyde were traded or released, people would flock to Williams, and he'd certainly have a role. So would Tim Hightower. Hightower is the only back in this backfield who has proven himself a capable pass-catching back in college or the NFL. He's also very likely a much better pass blocker than Williams currently is. If you want to draft Williams at the very end of your draft that's fine, but I wouldn't reach, because he'll be in a committee on a bad team even if Hyde gets shipped out.

Now let's get to the expectations as things currently stand.

*Rankings expressed below are in terms of expected Fantasy points. This is a part of our actual Fantasy Football rankings but not a direct correlation to my rankings. Things like injury risk, upside, etc. factor into rankings but they're not being talked about here. This is simply an expectation as the team is currently constructed.

San Francisco 49ers
Player Name Expected FP Position Rank Expected PPR FP Position Rank
146.8 #20 168.8 #23
122.4 #39 206.4 #30
74.7 #57 89.7 #59
58.8 #30 87.8 #33

Breaking down the touches

The question marks for Carlos Hyde don't end with his place on the team. Game script can be a big question mark for a bad team with a new head coach, no matter how brilliant an offensive mind he is. With Brian Hoyer as his quarterback and Pierre Garcon as his only definite starter at receiver, I'm sure Shanahan would like to be as run-heavy as possible. With a team that will struggle to win six games, it's hard to imagine perfect balance.

I'm slotting the 49ers for 420 rush attempts and 540 pass attempts. I expect Garcon will see the lion's share of those targets, but the battle for who comes in second and third is one we'll watch closely in the preseason. I've put my current thoughts below, but this will be updated if someone emerges in camp.

49ers touches
Carlos Hyde 50% 210 6% 30 22 7
Joe Williams 27% 112 4% 20 15 3
Kyle Juszczyk 1% 10 9% 50 36 3
Pierre Garcon 0% 0 24% 130 84 5
Aldrick Robinson 0% 0 14% 75 45 4
Jeremy Kerley 0% 0 14% 75 43 2
Marqise Goodwin 0% 0 6% 30 18 2
Vance McDonald 0% 0 11% 60 29 4

Of note:

  • Juszczyk brings a unique flavor to these expectations. He was the highest paid running back or fullback to sign in free agency. He's going to do more than block. If he carves out a short-yardage role in addition to his pass-catching role he could have value in deep PPR leagues.
  • Robinson is a guy Shanahan specifically chose to bring with him from Atlanta, so you have to give him a boost just because of that. The 49ers are trying to establish a culture in year one and Shanahan will play guys he can trust.

The Leftovers

As mentioned above, Hightower could very well be heavily involved if the 49ers decide to part ways with Hyde. Hightower has shown flashes in the past but he's never been able to stay healthy. He's not draftable as long as Hyde is on the roster.

George Kittle has made a lot of noise at tight end for this club, as has Matt Breida at running back. They may very well be big stories at camp this year. I just can't project Kittle to overtake McDonald at this point with McDonald's contract situation, while Breida has a lot of running backs to overcome. Just keep an eye on them in the preseason.