Each year, we like to run a series of posts called "90-in-90." The idea is that we'll take a look at every player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few ways. This roster will certainly change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not exactly 90 players in 90 days. At this point, it's a name we're keeping around for street cred.
A year ago, the San Francisco 49ers got their first look at running back Jewel Hampton in a game situation. The 49ers signed Hampton as an undrafted free agent following the 2012 NFL Draft. He went undrafted due in large part to extensive knee surgeries. He had to get some bone spurs removed, and the 49ers placed him on their NFI list to start 2012 training camp. He ended up getting activated Week 13, and spent the rest of the season inactive on the 53-man roster.
When 2013 rolled around, Hampton was ready to take part in training camp and the preseason. He did not play in the preseason opener, but he played in the following three games. He finished as the team's leading preseason rusher, with 37 rushes for 113 yards (3.1 ypc) and one touchdown. He struggled a bit in his first preseason game, but he showed some signs against the Vikings in Week 3. At the end of camp, the 49ers cut him. He cleared waivers, and signed with the practice squad, where he stayed for the remainder of the season.
What to expect in 2014:
His roster odds are long, so my expectation is practice squad once again. His best opportunity for a spot on the 53-man roster is if Marcus Lattimore's knee is not fully healed, and the 49ers trade one of Kendall Hunter or LaMichael James. If Hampton did make the 49ers roster this season, I could see a mix of inactive status, and primarily special teams work. He could potentially get a touch or two if he was on the 53-man roster, but he would still be behind at least Carlos Hyde, if not more.
Odds of making the roster:
His odds are pretty long at this point. Lattimore seems to be on track to participate in full in training camp. If the 49ers trade LaMichael James, Kendall Hunter likely remains the primary backup ahead of Carlos Hyde. And even if they were to trade Hunter, Hyde seems like the kind of guy who can become a strong backup option behind Frank Gore. There are just too many bodies ahead of Hampton. He has practice squad eligibility, and given that running backs are losing value across the league, it seems unlikely that he would be claimed off waivers at the end of camp.
Of course, where Hampton could get interesting is in 2015. Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter are both free agents. If Marcus Lattimore and Carlos Hyde look solid this season, Hampton could potentially work his way into a bit of a short yardage, situational type of running back. The 49ers could be in this for the long haul with Hampton, and simply look to have him as a legit roster competitor in 2015. We don't know exactly what the running back rotation will look like at that point, but maybe Hampton becomes a factor then.