The San Francisco 49ers running back depth chart was decimated by injuries last season, and it resulted in two notable free agency additions. The 49ers signed Shaun Draughn on November 2, after losing Carlos Hyde, Reggie Bush, and Mike Davis to injuries. Draughn eventually got hurt as well, and the team signed DuJuan Harris for the final two games of the season.
The 49ers re-signed Draughn to a one-year deal this offseason. Harris had signed a two-year deal when the team added him in December, so both are on the roster, along with Carlos Hyde, Mike Davis, and Kelvin Taylor. In my latest 53-man roster projection Tuesday morning, I included Hyde, Davis, Taylor, and Harris, and did not include Shaun Draughn. And while discussion has been civil, there continues to be a lot of push-back about again not including Draughn.
The 49ers got production out of Draughn last season was certainly serviceable in light of the injuries. Over the course of six games, he rushed 76 times for 263 yards (3.5 ypc) and a touchdown. He also had 25 receptions for 175 yards. Those are not awful numbers, but they’re not exactly particularly good numbers. They’re just sort of there. Football Outsiders put together their own analysis of running backs, and they ranked Draughn 50 out of 61 running backs with 20-99 rushes. They also ranked him No. 52 in DYAR and DVOA among 58 running backs with at least 25 passes in their direction.
Draughn was playing on a very bad football team. He had an offensive line that was constantly in transition, and just not very good. So, I get that people are willing to discount the numbers to some extent. At the same time, Draughn is on his eighth team in five years, having spent time with Washington, the Kansas City Chiefs, Baltimore Ravens, Indianapolis Colts, Chicago Bears, San Diego Chargers, and Cleveland Browns. It is entirely possible he will figure something out, but it's safe to project him as a fairly mediocre running back.
The debate over Draughn usually includes Mike Davis. The 49ers spent a fourth round pick on Davis in the 2015 NFL Draft, and his rookie year was not pretty. He rushed 35 times for 58 yards in nine games. He also missed seven games while on the injured return list with return designation. He learned plenty, but production-wise it just wasn't there. Among running backs with 20-99 rushing attempts, Football Outsiders ranked him No. 40. Among running backs with 10-24 passes in their direction, FO ranked him No. 42 out of 43 running backs. So yes, it was a wasted year.
The 49ers could very well decide to release Davis this year. He might not fit what Chip Kelly wants to do. Trent Baalke may decide it was a wasted pick. However, I just find it hard to believe the 49ers would release a player after only one year that was partially short-changed due to injury. And to instead go with a guy who has never really proven to be any more than an adequate running back at best? I'm just a little confused why people give him so much credit for six games that were just not particularly great. Again, he's certainly an adequate option when things fell apart, but I just don't see him as much more than that. Maybe he'll prove me wrong this year.