San Francisco 49ers

Hyde and seek: 49ers interviewing top runners in Indianapolis

San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde (28) warms up before an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014.
San Francisco 49ers running back Carlos Hyde (28) warms up before an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014. AP

The 49ers continue to talk to Carlos Hyde's agents as free agency draws near. At the same time they've been interviewing some of the top runners in the upcoming draft.

General manager John Lynch on Thursday said the team had official, 15-minute interviews in Indianapolis with Penn State's Saquon Barkley, USC's Ronald Jones and Oregon's Royce Freeman, among others.

A day earlier, Lynch was asked which positions seemed like the deepest in the upcoming draft. He said quarterback and running back. All three runners listed above seemingly would be nice fits in Kyle Shanahan's zone-running scheme and many draft observers consider Barkley a once-in-a-decade type of runner.

He's likely to be unavailable when the 49ers pick in the first round.

"When there's a great one (running back), it's tough to deal with," Lynch said. "I know that from having played defense. … That is a position that you can affect the game in a big way."

Hyde, meanwhile, handled the bulk of the team's carries last season and led the team in both rushing yards (938) and receptions (59). It seems increasingly likely that he will be able to test his value in free agency. If that's the case, his hard-charging style might be more appealing to a power-running team than it is to San Francisco.

Still, Lynch and the 49ers are keeping the lines of communication open with Hyde.

“We’ve had discussions with Carlos all the way through the season," he said. "We haven’t been able to come to an agreement. But those discussions are ongoing. … I wouldn’t say anything’s imminent there.”

The 49ers have three 2017 rookie runners under contract at the moment: Matt Breida, Jeremy McNichols and Joe Williams. Of that group, Breida is the only one with an NFL carry on his résumé. He finished second to Hyde with 465 rushing yards last year.

Breida averaged 4.4 yards a carry; Hyde averaged 3.9 yards per run.

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