The 49ers' new regime kept two running backs from the 2016 season. One of those backs, Raheem Mostert, signed on December 31, 2016. The other being the former 2nd round pick out of Ohio State, Carlos Hyde. John Lynch and company decided to completely revamp the running back room for 2017. They started by signing veteran running back Tim Hightower. On draft day the team made a trade for Kapri Bibbs. In the 4th round Lynch pulled the trigger on Joe Williams. Matt Breida was brought in as an undrafted free agent out of Georgia Southern. Does he have a chance to crack the 53 man roster?
Breida had 2 great years in 2014 and 2015 for Georgia Southern gaining 1485 and 1685 yards. After 2015 he could have went into the 2016 NFL draft and would have been a day 2 or day 3 pick. Instead he stayed for his 2016 season and had just 646 yards and 3 TDs, which really hurt his draft stock for the 2017 draft. He did have a leg injury at the tail end of the 2015 season, who knows if that affected him. He did play all 12 games in 2016.
In 2014 and 2015 he showed a lot of big play potential. It’s obvious what Lynch and company see in Breida. He’s a smaller back with quickness, and could be a good compliment to Joe Williams. Lynch got him in the building by selling him on that. (The more than normal guaranteed money for an undrafted free agent probably help as well).
Most say Breida was looking like the best running back on the field in OTAs. Obviously they aren’t wearing pads so it’s tough to evaluate, but this is a good sign for the young back.
Once they put the pads on we may start to see why he went undrafted. He didn’t catch a lot of passes in college. They didn’t throw it to him very often, possibly due to their college offense, but that is something he will need to excel at in Shanahan’s system. His ability to run downhill and find cut back lanes will be crucial for him to make the 53 man roster. Can he navigate an NFL defensive line, make the proper cut, and hit the hole with speed?
Now the real question is can he make the 53 man roster. A team will normally keep 4 running backs. First off Hyde and Williams are locks. I’m also going to include full back Kyle Juszczyk as a running back and he’s definitely on the roster. Bibbs, Mostert, and Breida competing for that last spot. All Three will fill a similar roll, the one who stands out in camp and preseason will most likely get the spot. The special team’s coordinator will also have a big say in who gets that spot. The 4th running back on a roster is expected to be a big contributor on special teams.
Breida defiantly has the talent to be on an NFL roster. If he doesn’t make the final 53 look for the 49ers to try to get him on their practice squad. Hopefully Lynch found a diamond in the rough for Shanahan, who has a history of success with late round and undrafted guys. Just ask Arian Foster and Alfred Morris.