• Matt Woolsey

Replacing the Fleet: Options to Fill Out the 49ers RB Depth Chart

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People have been screaming “We want a quarterback,” so much it reminded me of when I was in elementary school: “We want a pitcher, not a belly-itcher.” There were talks of the 49ers being interested in Deshaun Watson, and then he turned out to be an allegedly-creepy bloke. Then came rumors of trade for Sam Darnold, and then the 49ers moved up to third overall. Now Darnold is a member of the Carolina Panthers.

The 49ers are drafting a quarterback with the third pick. If they don’t, people will riot.

However, what about the backfield? What should San Francisco do about the running backs? Alabama’s Najee Harris is looking like he can be three-down back, and when the 49ers were at 12, Harris thought he might end up in the Bay. I have often wondered what the 49ers’ offense would look like if they managed to draft Alvin Kamara instead of the Saints. What can Kyle Shanahan do with that kind of talent? Unless the 49ers get that first-round pick, they ask for Jimmy Garoppolo; there is virtually no chance the 49ers will draft someone like Harris. However, do they need him? The obvious answer for any team is that you can use a great player to get your hands on, but in the case of the 49ers, do they even need to draft a running back?

In 2017, Carlos Hyde had 938 yards, eight touchdowns, and almost four yards a carry in Shanahan’s system. He gained another 350 yards through the air. He did not really fit in the Shanahan system. That same year the 49ers signed undrafted free agent Matt Breida, and he had over 600 total yards and another three touchdowns.

In 2018 Breida had over 1,000 total yards and three touchdowns. An aging Alfred Morris, undrafted free agent Jeff Wilson, and the journeyman Raheem Mostert all combined for over 1,000 yards and three touchdowns.

In 2019 Mostert had 950 yards and ten touchdowns. Breida added another 700 yards with a pair of touchdowns, including an 83-yard touchdown to start the 49ers offensive series against the Browns on Monday Night Football. Both Mostert and Breida ran for over five yards a carry. Tevin Coleman had 700 yards of his own and another seven touchdowns. Of course, we cannot forget about the NFC Championship Game where the 49ers rushed the ball 42 times for 275 yards and four touchdowns. All they needed in that game was a quarterback to say “hike.”

And in 2020, with the subpar quarterback play, both Wilson and Mostert combined for over 1,400 total yards and 13 touchdowns at almost five yards a carry.

There is not a coach in the NFL right now who can get more out of the running game (with less) than Kyle Shanahan. Yes, someone like Kamara or Harris would be amazing. Nevertheless, when Shanahan can go to the local grocery store and grab Bob the Bagger and, with his scheme, get almost 1,000 yards and seven or eight touchdowns from him, then why use a draft pick on a running back. The 49ers will restock where they always do, in the undrafted section.

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