Kelvin Taylor is The Best Fit to Back up Carlos Hyde

Oct 31, 2015; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Florida Gators running back Kelvin Taylor (21) runs the ball in for a touchdown against the Georgia Bulldogs during the second half at EverBank Stadium. Florida Gators defeated the Georgia Bulldogs 27-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 31, 2015; Jacksonville, FL, USA; Florida Gators running back Kelvin Taylor (21) runs the ball in for a touchdown against the Georgia Bulldogs during the second half at EverBank Stadium. Florida Gators defeated the Georgia Bulldogs 27-3. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

The 49ers waited until the sixth round of the NFL Draft to select running back Kelvin Taylor, but he is a potential steal who is the best fit to back up Carlos Hyde, we look at why.

Once again the San Francisco 49ers have another running back from the state of Florida on their roster and, while nobody is at this point expecting Kelvin Taylor to become Frank Gore, he is a rookie who has an immediate chance to make an impact.

Taylor, son of former Jacksonville Jaguars and New England Patriots tailback Fred Taylor, comes into a situation where there is no clear backup to starter Carlos Hyde, who will need somebody to take a share of the load after seeing his first two seasons in the league hampered by injury.

His rivals for the backup role are Kendall Gaskins, Mike Davis, DuJuan Harris and Shaun Draughn.

The latter trio are the most likely to challenge him for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart, with Harris and Draughn impressing in flashes in 2015 but, even at this early stage in his pro career, it is Taylor who is the best fit to take some carries off Hyde and gain positive yards doing so.

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San Francisco will be a running a zone-blocking scheme under new head coach Chip Kelly in 2016 and, as Matt Bowen put it in a piece for Bleacher Report, teams who use zone concepts require “backs who have vision, speed through the hole and cutback ability to find running lanes at the point of attack”.

Having clocked a 4.6 in the 40-yard dash at the combine, Taylor is not the speediest guy in the NFL, but he does possess impressive vision and cutback ability. His extremely quick feet allow him to not only find running lanes but also to work his way through small gaps that would not be considered holes for many backs.

Taylor squeaks through such a gap on this play against Tennessee, breaking off a big gain early in the game.

It may look as if this play is simply a product of Taylor being compact and able to fit through a tiny crease. However, it is Taylor’s subtle bounce step to the left that opens up that gap and helps him evade the tackle of a defender in the backfield, something he also does on the below play versus Missouri.

Here Taylor makes the most of the double-team blocks performed by the offensive linemen and the job the pulling tight end does in swallowing up a free defender to surge for another huge gain. But again the play would not be possible without his decisiveness in making the cut, which takes him beyond the swarming defenders in the backfield.

Adapting to a zone scheme should be of little difficulty to Taylor, who demonstrated his proficiency in finding the cutback in this less spectacular play from the same Missouri game.

Aside from his agility and proficiency in finding the cutback lanes, what stands out about Taylor is his unwillingness to go down.

He is blessed with surprising strength and has regularly shown himself capable of overpowering defenders to move the chains.

Taylor’s power and grit combined with ability to make guys miss make him a versatile threat as a runner, as he demonstrated in these back-to-back first-down runs against Missouri.

The fact Taylor can win with both power and finesse should only serve to increase the 49ers’ faith in him as a potential backup to Hyde, and he was reliable throughout his time at Florida, averaging 4.3 yards per carry over his college career – topping 1,000 yards and 13 touchdowns in his final season – and never fumbling in 486 rushes and 510 total touches for the Gators.

While not used on a consistent basis as a receiver out of the backfield, Taylor still averaged 8.8 yards on the 18 catches he made in 2016.

Pass protection, an area where Taylor is more than willing, is something he will need to work on long term. Runs to the edge sometimes take longer to develop with Taylor being a quicker-than-fast back but, while he does not possess home-run speed, the deficiencies in his game are far from startling for a player taken so late in the draft.

The positives comfortably outweigh the negatives with Taylor and, although it is often wise to temper expectations with rookie backs, a look at what the 49ers had in reserve last term only strengthens his case as the prospective No. 2.

Draughn did a serviceable job taking over from Hyde but it was evident he lacked the consistent explosiveness to make a game-changing impact as a runner, as evidenced by his 3.5 yards-per-carry average. Indeed, Draughn’s main influence was a pass-catcher, making 25 catches for 175 yards in six games.

Harris appeared much more of a threat on the ground and was also effective after the catch as a receiver, however, he was running through chasms on a number of occasions and it remains to be seen if he can affect the game in a similar way with less space to work with.

Gaskins was nothing more than an injury fill-in from the practice squad and provided little evidence to suggest he can develop into anything else as a pro.

Davis, entering his second year, is perhaps Taylor’s biggest rival for the backup berth but appeared extremely hesitant in hitting the hole in his rookie season and does not possess the lateral agility to be a threat in the open field.

Despite lacking pro experience, Taylor already has the advantage over his competitors for the No. 2 spot in terms of skill set, it is now up to him to make that superiority count in training camp and preseason and lock down the backup role.

Next: How Will the 49ers Defensive Line Look Without Nose Tackle Ian Williams?