SANTA CLARA – Frank Gore is entering the final year of his contract, and he will not be with the 49ers forever.
The selection of 230-pound running back Carlos Hyde of Ohio State appears to signal the organization is continuing to make plans for the time when the 49ers’ all-time leading rusher is no longer on the team.
”I think you can look at it that way, in some respects,” 49ers general manager Trent Baalke said Friday night. “But the bottom line is, (he) was the best player available. He was the best player on our board at the time we picked, and clearly the best player, so we made the pick.”
The 49ers traded back in the second round, then traded back up one spot later to select Hyde with the No. 57 overall selection. Hyde was the third running back chosen after Bishop Sankey and Jeremy Hill were chosen at Nos. 54 and 55 by Tennessee and Cincinnati, respectively.
Baalke said the selection of Hyde is not an indication that the 49ers do not have confidence that Marcus Lattimore, a fourth-round pick last year, can return to full strength after sitting out his rookie season due to a grisly knee injury he sustained his final year of college.
“Absolutely not,” Baalke said. “Once again, it’s competition. The great thing, these guys aren’t afraid to compete. It’s crowded, but at the same time it’s going to make every one of them step up and play to their capability. And that’s what you’re looking for.”
Hyde appears to have the best chance of eventually becoming the 49ers’ every-down back to replace Gore, who turns 31 next week. Hyde rushed for 1,521 yards and 15 touchdowns during his senior season at Ohio State. He averaged 7.3 yards per rushing attempt.
“He’s more than just a power back,” Baalke said. “He’s not a home-run hitter every time he touches the ball. But he’s capable, just as Frank’s been capable over his career, of breaking some long runs. He runs our style of offense very well. He’s got great vision. He’s got great feet. He runs with his pads low. He can make the offensive line better, and that’s what you’re looking for in running backs.”