By: Mike Messner (@teachermike72)
Final Edit: (@zachhernan)
Carlos “El Guapo” Hyde is a 49ers fixture. After the departure of Frank “The Tank” Gore, Hyde became the primary running back for the team. He had some extraordinarily large shoes to fill but he has become, in my opinion, the best offensive weapon the team has had the last few seasons. Even when you factor in the injuries and the overly vertical stance, those 14 losses last season would have become shutouts, or absolute slaughterhouses, if Hyde hadn’t been active. (And yes, I’m well aware that Hyde didn’t score all the points himself.)
So the scuttlebutt about Hyde being on the trading block is quite honestly, crap. Just flush it down the toilet. File it under “Not gonna happen.” The rookie tandem of head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch know better than to trade away the best runner on the team, even if they were offered a back with the speed of Reynaldo Nehemiah, the intelligence of Marcus Allen and the size of Andre the Giant.
You must be asking then; who is the heir apparent to Hyde? Well if you ask me it’s Matt Breida.
Breida’s career at Georgia Southern was a remarkable one and he would have been a Heisman candidate if not for his senior year. As a junior, he was second in the nation on breakaway runs, behind only FSU’s Dalvin Cook. Also, Breida finished eighth in the nation on yards after contact with 3.61 (just below LSU’s Leonard Fournette – 3.65).
The Sun Belt conference hadn’t seen the likes of Breida in years and he was poised to have a senior year that would put him on the draft board of every NFL team (except maybe the Patriots). I mean, just look at these accolades:
2015 All-Sun Belt 1st Team Offense,
2014 All-Sun Belt 1st Team Offense,
Sun Belt 2014 Offensive Player of the Year
2014 Doak Award Semi-Finalist, 3,740 yards rushing (for 3 seasons)
Not too shabby, eh?
Then, the head coach flew the coop and in his senior year Breida found himself stuck in a triple-option offense with quarterbacks that couldn’t stay healthy. None of this was his fault and although he himself stayed healthy, he wasn’t given the opportunities he had in previous years to shine. Matt’s performance understandably declined and the former top-projected draft pick dropped off everyone’s radar. (Still, it’s worth noting that even in an ineffective offensive scheme, he did manage to get one 100 yard performance — against no less an opponent than Ole Miss.)
After that disastrous season, Breida fell off of everyone’s radar. Except that of Bobby Turner – the 49ers new running backs coach. Turner had not only worked for both Kyle Shanahan and his father, but also knew what the younger Shanahan was looking for in his offense.
Then came the Pro Day at Georgia Southern and man, Breida was stunning. He blazed through 40 yards in 4.37 seconds, jumped 42″ vertically, and did a 11.2″ broad jump! It’s not surprising that Lynch was on the phone with the undrafted free agent a few days after the draft concluded. The 49ers proceeded to make Mr. Breida the highest-paid undrafted free agent in this class, per Pro Football Focus.
During minicamp, one of the 49ers assistants told KNBR’s Kevin Jones that Breida was by far the best rookie on the field. Better than Joe Williams, whom the team actually spent a fourth-round pick on. Now I know it’s still early, of course. People get injured, rookies don’t fulfill their potential, players decide football’s not for them. (See: Anthony Davis and Jarryd Hayne). It happens, it’s life.
However, the team and fans would be foolish to disregard Matt Breida simply because he wasn’t selected during those three days in April. The guy has the numbers, the pedigree, and the talent to make the team.
Look out all members of the running back corps in Santa Clara, there just might be some big changes to the lineup in the Bay.