The San Francisco 49ers head into their Week 15 matchup against the Atlanta Falcons with a rushing offense that has been among the best in the league. They are tied for third with 4.7 yards per carry, and Football Outsiders ranks their rushing offense No. 3 in the league.
Part of the rushing success is due to Colin Kaepernick’s scrambling, but Carlos Hyde has also been a key component, averaging 4.6 yards per carry. The team has continued rushing even in bigger losses, so there is something to be said for that, but it is still a solid unit overall.
The question now is what next to build on it. Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller put together a three-round 2017 NFL mock draft on Friday, and his picks included Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster, Miami (FL) quarterback Brad Kaaya, and BYU running back Jamaal Williams. Whatever you think of the specific players Miller selected, the choice of running back in the third round is an interesting one.
Williams is averaging 5.6 yards per carry this season, and has 11 touchdowns with their bowl game left to play. Williams rushed for 1,233 yards as a sophomore, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. He stumbled a bit as a junior, averaging 4.8 yards per carry on a career low 109 carries after a season-ending injury.
Last year, the 49ers signed Reggie Bush in hopes he would be a solid complementary option to Hyde. Bush got injured and was lost for the year, and with Hyde lost for the year as well, they turned to street free agents. Shaun Draughn and DuJuan Harris both did solid work the second half of the season. This year, Draughn and Harris alternated as Hyde’s backup, with Mike Davis getting the mix briefly as well. Draughn has emerged as the primary backup, coming in on third downs as a pass-catching option.
The 49ers have a ton of issues to deal with this offseason. That being said, if a running back is the best available at some point on day two, I would not be entirely averse to the pick. Hyde is eligible for a contract extension this offseason, so it will be interesting to see if that gets done, and if the team does invest in another running back to help spell Hyde to some extent. I don’t think you necessarily need to spend a high pick on a running back, but if they can find the right guy, it could go a long way to creating some stability at the position. My guess is the 49ers go in other directions the first two days, but maybe they surprise us.