The 49ers have several players recovering from injuries following the 2012 season, and one has been a bit under the radar. Running back Kendall Hunter tore his Achilles against the New Orleans Saints, and has been quietly working back from the injury.
We never really heard how bad the tear was, whether it be a partial tear or a full rupture. While no Achilles injury is good, this does not seem to be quite as bad as it could have been:
Assuming his recovery continues at a strong pace, this is great news. Although Colin Kaepernick and the passing game will be a key part of the offense in 2013, this is a team built around the run at its most basic level. Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James provide this offense with all sorts of options on the ground. And that doesn't even count Jewel Hampton. Although Hampton is fighting an uphill battle on the depth chart, he showed skills in college and has been able to spend a year learning the 49ers system and watching a great running back like Frank Gore.
Hunter's recovery pace is also interesting as the 49ers get ready for the 2013 NFL Draft. When healthy, the team is stacked at running back. At the same time, Frank Gore likely does not have a lot of time left in the NFL. The team needs to figure out it's options for the future. Personally, the only option I could see in this year's draft is a guy like Marcus Lattimore.
In considering a guy like Lattimore, the idea would be that the 49ers could take their time as Lattimore works his way back from injury to 100%. The team could find a guy ready to contribute from day one, but there are simply not enough snaps to go around. We saw it last year with LaMichael James taking most of the season to get involved. Now that James is locked in as a potentially key part of the offense, there are even fewer touches to be had. If the team really intends to draft a running back, why not go with a guy who, with a potentially higher ceiling, will already require extra time to get completely healthy?
And that is all assuming the 49ers actually do take a running back this season. Given how running backs often seem to grow on trees, what's to say the 49ers even bother with a running back in this year's draft? Anything is possible, and there is always room for a body or two in undrafted free agency, but other than a Marcus Lattimore type of situation, I would not be surprised if the 49ers simply passed on drafting a running back this year.