The San Francisco 49ers start training camp later next week, which means we’ll start to get some resolution on who will make the roster, and how the starting lineup will look come Week 1. As we come down this final stretch, I thought we’d go through some of the notable position competitions facing the 49ers in training camp. We’re going to focus primarily on starters, but we might mix in some pertinent reserve roles from time-to-time. We started things off with right tackle, inside linebacker, wide receiver, and nickel back.
Today we move on to the backup running back. It is not a starter, but given Carlos Hyde’s bruising running style, the backup(s) will be critical. We don’t know how much this team will go with a workhorse like Hyde vs. having a complementary option, making the training camp competition all the more interesting.
The incumbent(s): None
The challengers: Shaun Draughn, DuJuan Harris, Mike Davis, Kelvin Taylor, Kendall Gaskins
Reggie Bush was the primary backup a year ago, but he is potentially joining the Buffalo Bills. Shaun Draughn and DuJuan Harris both got starts after Hyde and Bush got injured, with Mike Davis getting some backup work. Davis was fairly awful in limited work, but it was a stop and start year thanks to injuries and a bad offensive line. The team spent a sixth round pick this year on Kelvin Taylor, son of Fred Taylor.
Leader in the clubhouse: Nobody - The running back position is one of several that really can’t be assessed until pads go on and we see some contact. There is plenty to learn in the playbook, but training camp is when this competition takes a real step forward.
Contract implications: None. Young and cheap, or slightly older and cheap. Draughn and Harris are free agents after this coming season, while Davis and Taylor are on their rookie contracts.
Wild card: Could the team sign another running back? I doubt it, but that’s the only real wild card at this point.
Way too early prediction: DuJuan Harris could end up being the most intriguing complementary back behind Hyde. We could see reps for several players, but Harris could be the guy who can be utilized more in the passing game. I am a little more optimistic about Mike Davis than others as a basic backup in terms of carries, but I see Harris being a guy who could emerge in 2016.