Given dangerous wideouts were selected in the first few picks of the 2014 NFL draft, it's hard to imagine a running back being able to call himself the top fantasy football rookie of 2014—much less the third one drafted. But that's just the case in San Francisco with star rookie Carlos Hyde Jr.
Five receivers were taken in Round 1—zero running backs. Bishop Sankey and Jeremy Hill were then taken shortly before Hyde went to the 49ers with the 57th-overall pick, but don't let that be an indication of how things will be at the end of the season.
The Ohio State product has wasted no time making his impact felt in the 49ers backfield. In his first two preseason games, he has carried nine times for 50 yards.
Hyde will benefit from playing in one of the most physical offenses in all of football. San Francisco's run game ranked third in the NFL last season, with the dual-threat ability of Colin Kaepernick complementing the 49ers' strong offensive line and downhill running attack.
What's more, he fits right into said attack. Hyde's speed allows him to separate from defenders on the outside, but he's just as dangerous lowering his pads and running through contact.
At 6'0", 235 pounds and with wheels, his build and running style doesn't resemble that of a rookie, and that will allow for his growth in the league to come quick.
And perhaps most importantly, his style resembles Frank Gore's, per Fox Sports' Kirk Morrison:
Of course, there lies the chief problem in Hyde fulfilling his potential in 2014 as the top rookie fantasy option—Gore.
The longtime 49ers feature back is 31 years of age but showing no signs of slowing down despite being on the wrong side of 30. With 1,000-yard seasons in seven of the last eight years, his production hasn't dropped off over time.
|Carlos Hyde's 2013 Ohio State Statistics|
|Receptions||Receiving Yards||YPR||Receiving TDs|
But behind Gore, there's no doubt that Hyde is the guy. Kendall Hunter is out for the season, and LaMichael James has been out much of training camp with an elbow injury.
Gore's presence will reduce Hyde's impact a bit at first, but it won't take long at all for the Niners to thrive with two backs as they have over previous seasons. If Gore's age is any indication, his decline could begin as soon as this year, and that will leave more production needed from the backfield.
Hyde will come right in and make the 49ers' backfield problems seem insignificant with his play. They grabbed him in the second round for a reason, and his NFL-ready running style will take no time to come to fruition.
There are many great rookie options in fantasy this year, but none are better than Hyde. Rookie wideouts like Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans will need some time in the league before maxing their potential, and rookie rushers Sankey and Hill will need to become standout No. 1 backs for their respective teams to override Hyde's impact as the 49ers' No. 2 back.
San Francisco's offense lost its way at times last season with a weak passing attack, but Hyde's arrival allows for the 49ers to continue doing what they do best—pound the rock. And there are few young running backs in the NFL better suited at doing so than Hyde.