San Francisco 49ers

49ers rookie Matt Breida has speed. Now it’s time to turn on power

San Francisco 49ers' Matt Breida during the team's organized team activity at its NFL football training facility in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, June 8, 2017.
San Francisco 49ers' Matt Breida during the team's organized team activity at its NFL football training facility in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, June 8, 2017. AP

In this era of instant analysis and snap conclusions, Carlos Hyde already has been thrown to the waste bin in favor of fourth-round tailback Joe Williams, who in turn already has been surpassed by undrafted runner Matt Breida.

All before the 49ers even have had a full-contact drill in 2017.

Yes, these prognostications are entirely premature. But there’s also no denying that Breida, who played at Georgia Southern, had some flashy runs this offseason and that his skills – one cut and he’s off to the races – mesh nicely with what Kyle Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner are seeking.

Of the 28 rookies on San Francisco’s roster, Breida was the fastest in the run-up to the draft, running his 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds. He also had the highest vertical leap – 42 inches – and churned out 23 repetitions of 225 pounds on the bench press. That was more than four of the team’s rookie offensive linemen as well as rookie tight end George Kittle, who had 18 repetitions.

Better than that, Breida scored 34 rushing touchdowns over his first two seasons at Georgia Southern while averaging more than eight yards per carry.

So how does a fast, explosive and productive runner fall out of the draft?

There were two main culprits.

His statistics nosedived in 2016, a season in which he averaged only 3.8 yards a carry and scored just three rushing touchdowns. He also weighed 183 pounds, too slight for an NFL rusher.

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Breida on Saturday noted that Georgia Southern changed offensive schemes last season, moving from an option system to more pro style. At the same time only one starting offensive lineman from 2015 was still playing in 2016.

“You had a whole bunch of new guys trying to learn a new system after they had been there for two years,” Breida said. “It was just a big adjustment for the whole team.”

As far as his size, he said he’s up to 200 pounds and is eager to show he has plenty of power to go along with his speed. He’ll get a chance to do so Sunday in the 49ers’ first practice in full pads this training camp.

“If you watch my film at Georgia Southern, a lot of the big runs I had were up the middle. They were power runs,” Breida said. “I love to play power. Everyone thinks, ‘Oh, he’s fast. He wants to get outside.’ But I love running inside. The quickest way to the end zone is (by going) vertical.”

Shanahan said he’s also ready to see his two rookie runners in a full-contact setting. In the spring running plays are whistled dead when tacklers get their arms on a runner. There are times when he suspects his tailbacks would be able to break those tackles, but that he doesn’t really know for sure.

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“I think the running back position, as much as any position, you really can’t develop an opinion until the pads are on,” he said. “You can’t play in this league if you don’t run through arm tackles and break through arm tackles, and you really don’t even know that until you get the pads on.”

Breida said 16 teams called him before the draft began and that a handful – including the 49ers, Jets, Ravens and Titans – were gunning to sign him when the draft ended.

He chose San Francisco partly because the running offense – heavy on inside and outside zone runs – are similar to what he ran early on at Georgia Southern. He also got a good feeling because Turner and run game specialist Mike McDaniel were so aggressive in their pursuit of him.

“I felt that they really wanted me, that they believed in me,” he said. “They didn’t just look at last year’s stats. They looked at everything I did. And that’s a big reason why I’m here.”

Matt Barrows: @mattbarrows, read more about the team at sacbee.com/sf49ers.

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