Each year, we run a series of post called "90-in-90" here at Niners Nation. The idea is that we'll take a look at every single player on the roster, from the very bottom to the top and break them down a few different ways. This is to help give everyone a basic understanding of a roster. Of course, this roster will change, and some days we'll have more than one so it's not strictly one per day but you get the idea.
The San Francisco 49ers had a very obvious plan when it came to their offensive strategy last season: run the ball with Carlos Hyde and anybody else healthy enough to carry it. As it turned out, there were very few people healthy enough to carry it over the course of the season.
Hyde was as good as advertised and I’m more than happy with him going forward. But he went down with an injury, and Reggie Bush, his primary backup (ahahahaha, remember that, you guys?) also went down with injury. San Francisco’s third string was either Jarryd Hayne or Mike Davis, and then Hayne quickly became an afterthought and Davis, a rookie, quickly looked overwhelmed.
Enter Shaun Draughn, and then eventually, DuJuan Harris. Both were free agent pickups, with the latter coming in after the former got injured. They were signed off the street and given what was expected of them, they both performed well above expectations.
The two backs are different in style, and if I had to guess, I’d think Harris is a better fit for Chip Kelly’s offense. Then again, Draughn showed more in his limited time with the 49ers.
But it’s hardly just a competition between those two. Harris and Draughn both played well as free agent pickups, but there is still Davis, Kendall Gaskins and rookie Kelvin Taylor to consider. As much as I don’t think Davis has what it takes from what I’ve seen from him in the NFL, he’ll surely get a chance with Kelly.
I wonder if Hyde and Davis are locks and then Draughn, Harris, Gaskins and Taylor are battling for one or two roster spots. Taylor isn’t guaranteed a spot, especially if the 49ers think they can stash him on the practice squad.
Harris played in two games for the 49ers, putting up 140 yards on 27 carries, a per-carry average of 5.2 yards. He also caught nine passes for 97 yards. He broke a handful of big runs and was generally the only good thing going for the offense for a time. But again, there was nothing remarkable, and he’ll have his work cut out for him going forward.
Experience: 6th season
Weight: 203 lbs
The 49ers signed Harris to a two-year deal late last season and he has a base salary and cap hit of just $760,000 next season. He was brought in as an injury replacement and his contract is totally fine for whatever role he might play on a 53-man roster.
Why he might improve
Harris looked better in his short time with the 49ers than he’s ever looked since he entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent out of Troy in 2011. With the Green Bay Packers in 2012 he put up 157 yards on 34 carries, with a per-carry average of 4.6 yards.
He did better with the 49ers, and may have some extra pep in his step with the chance of finally finding a long-term home in the NFL. He’s not too aged for a running back and there isn’t much wear on the tires. Improvement could be expected, though I’m not sure if it will be enough for him to make the team.
Why he might regress
Then again ... Harris has bounced around the league an awful lot. He has spent time as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Pittsburgh Steelers, Minnesota Vikings, New Orleans Saints, Baltimore Ravens, Seattle Seahawks, Packers and now the 49ers. He was only on the offseason roster or practice squad for a few of those teams before they decided he didn’t deserve a spot on the 53-man roster.
With each team he’s played for, Harris has looked like an average runner with average skills at a position that’s dominated by young playmakers. He’s not old, but he’ll be 28 when the 2016 season actually gets underway and wear or not, he’s exiting his athletic prime. There will be a new coaching staff and plenty of competition, so regression seems just as, if not more, likely than improvement.
Odds of making the roster
This is difficult to parse, really. Harris was brought on late when things were desperate and he didn’t look amazing by any stretch of the imagination. But other than Carlos Hyde, everybody else on the roster is a question mark. Even Hyde sustained injuries last season so he’s not exactly a rock either. Is he competing with Draughn, or is he competing with Davis? Or maybe even Taylor? It’s hard to tell.
I like what Harris did in limited time last season, but I’m not sure it was anything that the 49ers can’t just get out of other backs with a brighter future ahead of them. I’d put Harris’ chances of making the roster relatively low, somewhere around 35 percent, to use a number I’m pulling out of thin air.