• Scott Young

49ers: Who Will be in the Running Backs' Room Come Week 1?

The San Francisco 49ers ended last season with a running back corps that was (almost literally) put together with scotch tape and glue. Running back Carlos Hyde did everything in his power to keep the offense moving and still ended the season on injured reserve. Running back Raheem Mostert was brought in, but there wasn’t much that could be done.

Enter General Manager John Lynch and Head Coach Kyle Shanahan, and while the entire roster was in bad shape, the running back corps needed some extra TLC. The work started during free agency, signing OW Kyle Juszczyk nearly as soon as they could. Once the draft started, they traded a fifth-round pick in 2018 for RB Kapri Bibbs and a fifth-round pick for 2017, which they then used to draft WR Trent Taylor at No. 177 overall. They then drafted RB Joe Williams and signed UDFA RB Matt Breida.

This group on paper is a huge upgrade to the trio of Hyde, RB Shaun Draughn and RB DuJuan Harris that we have been used to the last couple of years, but out of this group there is going to be an odd man out or two. Lets take a look and see if we can guess who will be on the 53-man roster come week 1.

RB Carlos Hyde

Carlos Hyde always seems poised to have a breakout year. Drafted as an heir to the RB1 spot to beloved 49er RB Frank Gore, and fans have been waiting for him to have the 1,200 yard year that they thought he should have.

Sadly, due to injuries, an inept-at-best offensive line and coaching staffs that weren’t quite sure how to use them, that massive year never seemed to happen. He came close this past year, totaling 988 yards (1) .

The hope will be that offensive genius Kyle Shanahan can replicate the success he had as offensive coordinator in Atlanta, but we also said the same thing when offensive genius Chip Kelly was head coach. By accounts from every beat writer and the media at large, he seems to be a lock for a big year, and with (hopefully) better offensive line play and capable backs behind him. He will be able to lower his number of attempts which should lead to better runs.

*Odds of making the roster: 100%*

OW -- Offensive Weapon -- Kyle Juszczyk

As said before, OW Kyle Juszczyk was brought in as one of the first free agents signed. Coming in as an initial building block of a team rebuild can’t be easy, but he seems to be taking advantage of the chance. He stood out during OTAs, but has taken a backseat in praise to players such as WR Trent Taylor or WR Marquise Goodwin. This isn’t to say that he has regressed or has not been the player he was expected to be, but rather that, as Lynch and Shanahan have both called him, he is an “Offensive Weapon”. He likely doesn’t figure into training camp evaluations because they know who he is and what he can do. Pay attention to him come Week 1. His ability to do so much from so many spots along the line will likely be an integral part in keeping teams from loading the box

*Odds of making the roster: 100%*

RB Matt Breida

RB Matt Breida was brought in as a priority signed UDFA. A lack of production in his senior year led to teams looking at other players during the seven rounds of the NFL Draft. Thankfully, Breida seems to be ready for the challenge. Breida is one of the most athletically gifted players on the roster and has the ability to do pretty much whatever is asked of him. Want him to run between the tackles? He will do it. Outside the tackles? Got it. Return kicks and punts? He will probably ask how many return yards you want and give you an extra five. He has been bright spot during the offseason and people seem to be excited to see what he does. He was undrafted for a reason though, and he will need to work that much harder to prove his naysayers wrong and thrive in the NFL.

*Odds of making the roster: 70%*

RB Joe Williams

RB Joe Williams was a player that Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner essentially pleaded Lynch to draft. He’s a player that they saw a unique combination of speed and power and wanted him bad enough that they didn’t care if writer Peter King reported it (2).

Williams is certainly a unique athlete, and while his talent is undeniable, the character concerns that kept Lynch from putting him on his board in the first place could also pop back up. We know that he can play right now, but we need to see if he can mentally stay strong.

*Odds of making the roster: 70%*

RBs Tim Hightower, Kapri Bibbs and Raheem Mostert

Hightower was brought in early in free agency as well and was initially pegged as a speed back to complement the bruising style of Hyde. Mostert was brought in last year to have some semblance of a run game. Bibbs was brought in during a draft day trade too compete for a spot. Hightower did some great work last year with the New Orleans Saints. They can still be that speedy change of pace back they was expected to be, but with some injuries hampering the number of reps they’ve got during training camp and with the emergence and versatility of Williams and Breida, the coaching staff may decide they need those roster spots elsewhere.

*Odds of making the roster: Hightower, 20%. Bibbs, 30%. Mostert, 40%*

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