No. 1: Joe Williams beats out Carlos Hyde
I will start out by saying that I am hedging my bet with this prediction. Carlos Hyde has the talent and experience to be the featured back for the 49ers in 2017.
But only if he can stay healthy. And that is a big if.
Enter Joe Williams. Williams played college football at Utah, where he rushed 201 times for 1,420 yards and 10 touchdowns. Williams’ combine stats included a 4.41 40-yard dash and a vertical of 35 inches. Williams has breakaway speed and the ability to run through contact. And although he had some ball security issues, the concern for most scouts was his desire to play football.
It was also a concern for new GM John Lynch, who needed Williams to explain exactly why he stepped away from his team for a month before coming back to play.
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And although Kyle Shanahan pleaded for Lynch to draft Williams, it was Williams’ explanation to Lynch that propelled the team to draft him.
Williams’ sister passed away in 2006 after being in and out of the hospital. She fell unconscious, and it was Williams who felt guilt and shame because she died in his arms. He felt he had not done enough to save her. It took Williams to walk away from football to get his mind right, but whatever was said between Williams and the team, it led to them feeling comfortable enough to draft the talented running back.
If Hyde, the presumptive starter, falters in training camp or is hit by the same injury bug that has plagued his short career (he has missed 14 games in his three seasons), Williams will almost assuredly get the opportunity to unseat Hyde as the featured back.
And should both remain healthy, the 49ers may very well have their version of the Atlanta Falcons’ Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Either way, Williams should have an impact on the team for the 2017 season.