The San Francisco 49ers head into the NFL Combine with four running backs under contract. That group includes Carlos Hyde, Mike Davis, DuJuan Harris, and Jarryd Hayne. They also have Kendall Gaskins as an exclusive rights free agent, Shaun Draughn as either a restricted or unrestricted free agent (I'm still trying to clarify that - update: he is an RFA), and Reggie Bush as an unrestricted free agent.
Hyde seemingly is the guy to handle the bulk of the work, but his bruising style makes it hard to see him having a lengthy career without one or two backs helping out. The team has Mike Davis, but it remains to be seen how well he emerges after a less than stellar rookie season. And then there's this. Eric Branch brought up a good point about Chip Kelly's offense. Over the three seasons he coached the Philadelphia Eagles, the team ranked No. 7 in the NFL in rushing attempts.
Branch brought that up in a discussion of potential first round prospects the 49ers might consider. He mentioned Ezekiel Elliott given Hyde's punishing style, and Kelly's running game:
Carlos Hyde, also from Ohio State, is a punishing runner who absorbs too much punishment to handle a 250-carry workload. With Elliott, Chip Kelly could have a potent backfield to employ his run-heavy attack. The Eagles ranked seventh in the NFL in rushing attempts in his three seasons.
I don't expect the 49ers to use a first round pick on a running back, but could we see it happen? Or does the team just re-sign Draughn and roll him out with Davis and Harris to spell Hyde sufficiently? The 49ers have drafted a running back every year dating back to 2009. Does it happen again this year? Last year showed you can find plenty of talent in free agency, or potentially with a late round pick, so I'm not sure we need to see a particularly sizable investment of assets to improve depth at the position.