After drafting speedster Joe Williams, the San Francisco 49ers have a competition at running back. We review the film, discuss why Carlos Hyde is the best fit for Kyle Shanahan’s offense and why he’ll be the 49ers’ starting RB.

When San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan talked general manager John Lynch into adding running back Joe Williams to the 49ers draft board, and then moving up 22 spots to select him, many in the media concluded RB Carlos Hyde’s days with the team were numbered.

Williams is likely the 49ers’ running back of the future. But Hyde will be the 49ers’ 2017 opening-day starter, because he’s the best fit for Shanahan’s offense — right now.

When healthy, Hyde has been a good running back behind a horrendous offensive line — the NFL’s worst in 2015 and 2016, per Football Outsiders — in part, due to his ability to gain yards after contact:

Hyde is in a contract year in the prime of his career, so he will be working to set his value for 2018 free agency — and due to his contract status, he has limited trade value. Since this year may be Hyde’s last with the 49ers, Williams will surely get his opportunities throughout the season.

A few members of the media have claimed Hyde will be unable to play in Shanahan’s offensive system due to his alleged lack of outside-zone experience, speed, cutting ability and vision.

I reviewed all of Hyde’s NFL game film and came to a different conclusion.

But before we get to the film, although Shanahan’s running scheme is based in outside-zone concepts, it’s not an Alex Gibbs-style scheme, where the team runs outsize zone on every running play.

In 2016, Shanahan ran outside zone on just under half of all running plays — and the other half are plays Hyde has excelled in over his 49ers career. Also, running backs — especially in Shanahan’s offense — do a lot more than simply run the ball.

All these facts are true. But in order to play running back in Shanahan’s offense, you do need to effectively run the outside zone. So, what does Hyde’s game film show us?

About the Author: Chris Wilson

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