The San Francisco 49ers wrapped up pre-draft visits and workouts this past week, and I just noticed one that flew in under the radar. Marshall running back Devon Johnson met with the 49ers for a private workout, according to NFL reporter Jenna Laine. He also had a workout with the Seattle Seahawks, and conducted official visits with the Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills.
Johnson is a seriously big back, measuring in at his Pro Day at 6'0 and weighing 238 pounds. The Marshall website listed him at 244 pounds, so he can definitely play big. In fact, his nickname is Rockhead.
He had an interesting career at Marshall. He was recruited as a linebacker, but switched over to tight end his freshman year. He spent two seasons at the position, catching 15 passes for 239 yards. He switched to running back his junior season, and immediately burst on the scene. Johnson rushed 206 times for 1,767 yards (8.6 ypc!) and 17 touchdowns. He also had six receptions for 121 yards and two touchdowns. His senior season was limited because of a back injury. He played in seven games, rushing 94 times for 593 yards (6.3 ypc) and five touchdowns.
There's no doubting he can be a bullish running back, but injuries seem to be a concern. His back was an issue, and medical concerns kept him from fully participating in the NFL Combine. He did various drills at the Marshall Pro Day, but he was unable to do the bench press because of a shoulder injury.
The 49ers have Carlos Hyde as a bull-dozing running back, but as we've seen with him, that style can wear a man down. The 49ers have depth at the position, but it would not surprise me to see them take a running back in this year's draft. Chris Biderman put together a look at why it would not be entirely shocking to see the 49ers select Ezekiel Elliott. It is not something people have discussed, but Chris brings up some great points.
I don't know that the 49ers necessarily invest a first round pick in Elliott, but given how far ahead of the rest of the class people view him, would it be all that shocking? We saw the Philadelphia Eagles add serious depth at the position for Chip Kelly's offense. Maybe he's not running personnel now, but the need could still be there.