The San Francisco 49ers jumped out to a lead against the Minnesota Vikings on Monday night behind a strong rushing attack. That was excellent news for fantasy football owners who were relying on Carlos Hyde in the season’s opening week.
It wasn’t all good for the running back group, though, because Reggie Bush went down with a calf injury and missed the rest of the game, per Dennis O’Donnell of KPIX-TV in San Francisco. That opened the door for former Australian rugby player Jarryd Hayne and provided more opportunities for Hyde.
Here is a look at their numbers (through three-plus quarters, before the game ended):
While there’s been no official prognosis for Bush’s injury, ESPN’s Mark Schlereth said that the “look on Reggie Bush’s face looks like his season is done.”
As difficult as that would be for the 49ers moving forward, Nerdy Football’s Matt Miller provided a silver lining for a team that has the potential to control games on the ground behind a mobile quarterback and multiple options in the backfield:
That is music to the ears of fantasy owners, especially when it comes to Hyde.
The former Ohio State Buckeyes star was already the starter for San Francisco coming into the season, which meant he held value as a fantasy option. However, he was something of an unknown because he played behind Frank Gore in his rookie season and tallied 333 rushing yards and four touchdowns in limited action.
Hyde flashed potential at times, but there were natural questions about whether he was ready to handle a starter’s workload.
He looked more than ready Monday, as the NFL highlighted:
That was the first of two touchdowns for the playmaker, who found the end zone in the fourth quarter to open up a two-score lead.
The talent was already in place for Hyde, and Monday seemed like an early breakthrough for a promising season. He racked up 1,521 rushing yards and 18 total touchdowns during his final season at Ohio State, and he appeared to be the same runner who dominated the collegiate ranks Monday.
What’s more, Bush was the one running back on San Francisco’s roster with significant NFL experience, and the 49ers likely would have used him on plenty of third downs because of his ability to get involved in the passing attack (466 career receptions coming into Monday’s game).
Now that Bush may no longer be an option moving forward, Hyde will probably stay on the field for more plays, especially if he continues to perform like he did Monday.
It is easy to overreact to the first week of NFL action after a long offseason, but Hyde is going to see a heavy workload without Bush. His explosive agility was on full display during his touchdown runs, and he is powerful enough to pick up tough yardage in the middle of the field.
Consider Hyde a must-start in a San Francisco offense that ran the ball more often than it threw against the Vikings.
As for Hayne, his value improved with Bush’s injury as well. He wasn’t only on the field in punt-return situations. He spelled Hyde at running back and seemed to assume the role many expected Bush would occupy as another backfield option who can get involved in the passing attack.
It was also encouraging for fantasy owners that the coaching staff didn’t lose trust in Hayne when he muffed a punt in the early going.
Still, it is impossible for fantasy owners to trust Hayne at this point, and he is probably only worth monitoring as a potential flier, at best, in deep leagues. Yes, he is a former two-time player of the year in Australia’s National Rugby League and a fan favorite because of his backstory, but he has no NFL experience or regular-season track record.
He did lead the 49ers in rushing yards in three of their four preseason games, but most of that production came against backups in the second halves of games. The presence of Hyde also significantly limits Hayne’s value because he won’t see enough touches on offense to be a consistent fantasy difference-maker.
For now, focus only on Hyde if you are looking to play a San Francisco running back in your lineup.
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