Through the first two days of the draft, the 49ers stayed true to their personality.
Since general manager Trent Baalke and head coach Jim Harbaugh became a team three seasons ago, the Niners have been a physical team on both sides of the ball. And on offense – while most teams around the league were building schemes built around the passing game – San Francisco was relying on a ground-and-pound run-first philosophy.
That trait came through loud and clear on Day 2 of the draft in the Niners’ four draft selections.
In Round 2, they drafted Ohio State running back Carlos Hyde, a 6-foot, 230-pound battering ram who describes his running style as “violent.” After the 49ers drafted Hyde, the NFL Network’s Charles Davis praised Hyde’s toughness and versatility, saying this: “The 49ers like to bludgeon people running the football. That’s what Hyde can do. He does not turn down carries. Hyde can catch the football out of the backfield so effortlessly.”
Hyde was considered by some to be the best running back in the draft, and he now gives San Francisco an even deeper arsenal of ballcarriers behind Frank Gore, with Marcus Lattimore, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James. Hyde is particularly good running between the tackles and in short-yardage and goal-line situations.
In his final year at Ohio State, Hyde carried 208 times for 1,521 yards, 15 TDs and a 7.3 yards-per-carry average. He also averaged 9.2 yards on 16 catches out of the backfield.
Wrote Bill Williamson of ESPN.com: “Hyde will be the big back for the 49ers for the next several years. The 49ers continue to rely on a punishing rushing game and this pick confirms it.”
With their next three picks Friday, the 49ers selected center Marcus Martin of USC, inside linebacker Chris Borland of Wisconsin and offensive tackle Brandon Thomas of Clemson.
Martin, 6-3 and 320 pounds, was the No. 1 center on many analysts’ draft boards. Said NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock: “This is a big-bodied kid who fits exactly what San Francisco is … a big, powerful, run-the-football kind of team.” Martin could challenge Daniel Kilgore for the starting job at center and provide depth at guard.
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Borland, meanwhile, is only 5-foot-11, but weighs 248 pounds and is the classic Big Ten type of defensive mauler who excels against the run. Said Mayock: “This is such a Trent Baalke and Jim Harbaugh selection. In a division of hardheads, the 49ers have just added a thundering hardhead. He’s too short. He’s too slow. I don’t care. He can play.”
With NaVorro Bowman out for the first half of the season with an injury, Borland should get a chance to compete for playing time during training camp. He and veteran Michael Wilhoite give the 49ers depth and versatility at inside linebacker, with Borland now in the mix for the 49ers’ future as well.
Thomas, meanwhile, was a “redshirt” pick. He won’t help San Francisco this year, because of an ACL tear, surgery and rehabilitation during 2014. But the 6-3, 317 pounder will be ready to contribute in 2015.
In Saturday’s final day of the draft, the 49ers have seven draft picks remaining: two in the fourth round, two in the fifth, one in the sixth and two in the seventh.