In each of the last six NFL Drafts, the 49ers have drafted a running back. If they're going to make it seven years in a row, there's a decent crop of RB talent to choose from. Taking into account the current roster, one could assume they'll likely target a bigger back as insurance for Carlos Hyde.
Yes, both Reggie Bush and Kendall Hunter are on the roster and while both are capable of making big plays in a complimentary role, neither figure to be full-time starting running backs.
One of the most underrated big backs in this class is Alabama's T.J. Yeldon.
Weight: 226 lbs
Arm length: 31 5/8"
40 yard dash: 4.52 at Pro Day (4.61 at Combine)
Bench: 22 reps
Vertical Jump: 36"
Broad Jump: 117"
3 cone: 7.19
20-yd shuttle: 4.22
- Reads blocks well to recognize and anticipate running lanes.
- Quick burst through the line once a running lane is identified.
- Sharp lateral cuts to get to the second level.
- Faster and quicker than his size would indicate.
- Very good pass catcher out of the backfield.
- Willingness to give up his body and be aggressive in pass protection.
- Had more fumbles than you'd like to see from a three year player with 10. But he only had two in 2014.
- Tends to run a bit tall limiting his power.
- Can get impatient when things aren't going well and will try to create something by running laterally rather than up field.
- Pass protection technique is a lacking.
Doing Your Homework:
Check out Yeldon here against Auburn in 2014. You can also see games against West Virginia from 2014, and Oklahoma and Virginia Tech from 2013 over at DraftBreakdown.com.
Why he fits the 49ers:
As I noted above, the 9ers are need of another big back that can spell Carlos Hyde and provide them with a decent back-up option should Hyde get injured. I don't see Bush and Hunter as between the tackles runners like the 49ers prefer.
Yeldon would give them a tremendous option and provide Hyde with competition. Hyde had a promising rookie year but is still far from a known commodity. The good thing about Yeldon is he can also be a perfect complimentary back to Hyde should he maintain his starting role. Yeldon speed and pass catching ability would make him and excellent third down back.
Why he doesn't fit the 49ers:
Yeldon's stock has been rising over the last several weeks and it sounds as though he'll be an early day two pick. With three running backs on the roster and a rather deep draft class, the 9ers would be better suited to go another direction in the second round and address the need later in the draft.
What they're saying:
- NFL Films' Greg Cosell was on Midday180 in Tennessee and compared Yeldon to Frank Gore:
.@gregcosell on @Midday180: Yeldon picks and slides through traffic with vision, quick feet. Critical skills in NFL. Like Frank Gore.— Paul Kuharsky (@PaulKuharskyNFL) April 15, 2015
- NFL Network's Charles Davis has Yeldon one of five prospects that will be steals: "he thing is, Yeldon has often been left out of discussions about the top running backs in the draft. I think the team that lands him in the middle rounds will be very happy with the value he provides, though. He's a talented rusher with good receiving ability."
- Frank Cooney of NFLDraftScout.com says of Yeldon: "He puts together a ridiculous combination of stops, starts, jump-cuts and bursts that leave defenders grasping at air. But for when a defender does get a hand on him, Yeldon should have more tackle-breaking ability at his size."
- Check out Yeldon's stats over at CFBstats.com.
Yeldon is a strong, physical back who runs with purpose. Averaging over five yards a carry for his career at Alabama, he is as gifted a running back as there is in the class (sans Todd Gurley who might be the best RB prospect since Adrian Peterson - even with last year's knee injury).
After bursting on the scene as a true freshman in 2012, Yeldon bulked up to help sustain 200+ carries as Bama's primary back. The result was a slightly slower but stronger back capable of NFL-like workloads. Yeldon's ability to add weight without sacrificing his explosiveness is rather unique.
He projects as three down back in the NFL which should solidify him as a second or third round pick at worst. Depending on the how the board plays out I'd probably pass on a RB in the second round, but it'd be hard to pass on Yeldon. If he somehow lasted into the third, the value would be even greater.