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2009 Roster Projections: Running Backs

The 2009 OTAs (offseason training activities) kick off this coming Monday, so it seems as good a time as any to move on to our next set of offseason roster projections. Last week we kicked it off with the defensive line. The poll results were interesting as more people thought Ricky Jean-Francois would make the 53-man roster over Ray McDonald. McDonald's injury issues probably play somewhat of a role in that.

Now we move on to the running backs. Last spring I was really excited about the DeShaun Foster signing. I thought he'd be a great complementary back to Frank Gore. That never really panned out as he didn't get much work in behind Frank the Tank. Heading into this offseason, most everybody, from management to the fans, realized the team needed to find a solid running back who could sufficiently offset Gore. We're now left to wonder if they've found the answer. Also, I didn't include fullbacks at this point. Given the nature of the 49ers rushing attack I'll be looking at them separately.

Frank Gore
Michael Robinson
Glen Coffee

Kory Sheets
Thomas Clayton

Virtually No Chance

I think the biggest potential for controversy is probably listing Glen Coffee as a lock to make the 53-man roster. There are plenty of folks here who are probably still steaming over the Coffee selection. However, given that the team has invested a third round pick in Coffee, I really can't see him being held off the 53-man roster. Please feel free to correct me if you think I've erred. Also, give me a reason or two.

As for Robinson, his special teams prowess and potential in the wildcat (really not sure how much we'll see of him in that though) would seem to secure a roster spot for him. A month before last year's training camp, Robinson signed a 3-year extension that would keep him in San Francisco through the 2012 season. I'm curious how Singletary feels about Robinson, since this signing came before he was elevated to head coach.

The bubble contains a pair of very interesting running backs. Thomas Clayton is beloved by many people on this site because of his huge preseason numbers. he led the NFL in preseason rushing yards in 2007and finished third last season. For those who don't like Clayton, it has to be easy to see why some folks might jump on that bandwagon (if you can call it a bandwagon). And yet, he has yet to touch the field in a regular season game. We've discussed Thomas Clayton and why he should or should not be on the roster ad nauseum. Accordingly, I'd like to use this post to turn to the newest 49er running back....

The other bubble back is Kory Sheets. Sheets went undrafted out of Purdue amidst some complaints of shenanigans against the coaching staff. Who knows what really happened, but many folks see him as an extremely talented running back. When we get to predicting an entire 53-man roster, we'll have a better idea of if he'll be making the roster. In the meantime, just considering running backs, what do you think happens to Sheets this season?

If the team keeps Gore, Robinson and Coffee, can they afford to keep a 4th running back in Sheets? Depending on how deep they want to go elsewhere, I definitely think it's a possibility. Gore is your every down back, Coffee gets beefed up into a short yardage guy and Sheets is your home-run hitter. It worked for the Giants in more or less that fashion. The Giants already used Earth, Wind and Fire, so would the 49ers have thunder, lightning and heavy rain?