The San Francisco 49ers kick off the 2015 NFL regular season on Monday Night Football, on September 14. That game. means San Francisco is now a mere 40 days away from kicking off its 2015 regular season. In the spirit of that approaching date, I thought I would steal this idea from our Oakland Raiders site.
Who wore it best: Abe Woodson (1958-1964)
This is a really interesting number. The 49ers have had some really good players wear No. 40 over the years. And over the last 20 years that group has included a pair of fan favorites. William Floyd sported the number from 1994 to 1997, and then Fred Beasley wore it from 1998 to 2005. Floyd was an important cog in the 49ers last Super Bowl squad, while Beasley was a strong fullback who got into a fight with Kevan Barlow in the locker room. Good times!
But as to who wore it best, I was split between two guys. Running back/full back Ken Willard wore the number from 1965 to 1973, and leads the team in career AV at Pro Football Reference. He was voted into the Pro Bowl four times in his career, coming in his first five seasons. He was a strong presence in both the running and receiving game. His best year came in 1968. He finished the season with 967 rushing yards and 232 receiving yards, as well as seven rushing touchdowns.
However, I decided to go with Abe Woodson, who wore the number from 1958 to 1964. It appears he was a solid enough defensive back, but his real work came as a return man. He finished his career averaging 28.7 yards per return. PFR ranks him fourth all-time, tied with Joe McKnight behind Gale Sayers, Lynn Chandnois and Cordarrelle Patterson. However, among returners with at least 100 kickoff returns, Woodson is No. 1 all time. That's kinda crazy.
Who wears it now: RB Kendall Gaskins (2014-present)
The San Francisco 49ers have the potential for extensive depth at the running back position this season. However, Reggie Bush and Kendall Hunter have not gotten into team drills through the first four days of training camp. Both are strong contenders for roster spots, but their absence opens at least a little door for Kendall Gaskins.
Gaskins will likely get a sizable number of carries during the preseason, particularly in that first game. Carlos Hyde will get some work, but I would not expect a ton of work for him. If Hunter and Bush do not get into team drills soon, they will also potentially be fairly limited in that first preseason game. That leaves Gaskins, Mike Davis, and Jarryd Hayne to potentially split up as much as three quarters of the ground game.