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49ers 53-man roster analysis: Running back deeper than expected

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The 49ers settled on a preliminary 53-man roster this past weekend. Let’s take a look at the running back position heading into Week 1.

The San Francisco 49ers settled on their 53-man roster over the weekend, or at least one version of it. On Monday, the team claimed Taylor Hart from the Philadelphia Eagles, and cut Bruce Miller. They will make further changes over the course of the season, but we at least have a really good idea of the Week 1 roster. With that in mind, I thought we would take a look at each position and compare it with the roster in Week 17 and Week 1 last year. We start with the running back position.

Current: Carlos Hyde, Shaun Draughn, Mike Davis, DuJuan Harris (PS: Kelvin Taylor)
Week 17, 2015: Shaun Draughn, Kendall Gaskins, DuJuan Harris, Jarryd Hayne
Week 1, 2015: Carlos Hyde, Reggie Bush, Jarryd Hayne, Mike Davis (PS: Kendall Gaskins)

The 49ers will once again look to Carlos Hyde as their primary back. He complemented Frank Gore in 2014, and then took over as lead back in 2015. Injuries slowed him down last season, with a stress fracture sidelining him for the bulk of the season. The team also lost Reggie Bush to injury which resulted in the addition of Shaun Draughn. A Draughn injury resulted in the addition of DuJuan Harris.

The 49ers actually cut Harris as part of final roster cuts, but then signed him back once they placed Will Redmond on injured reserve. All the running backs showed some things in the preseason, which would seem to suggest maybe this is a solid depth chart. It was only the preseason, but seeing Mike Davis gashing through defenses was a welcome relief after last year’s abysmal performance.

Offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins said Draughn is currently the No. 2, and at one point compared him to Theo Riddick. Modkins worked with Riddick in Detroit. Riddick is an excellent pass-catching option, and that could foreshadow Draughn’s role if Hyde stays healthy.

For the time being, I’m feeling more comfortable with this group than most anything we saw last year. Yes, Reggie Bush could have proven more valuable. But considering he was shelved most of training camp, and got hurt regularly once he did hit the field in the regular season, there was little to expect from him. Harris was more impressive than Draughn in limited work, but both contributed more to the 49ers than Bush did. Add in Mike Davis actually looking like a real running back, and this is a deeper unit than most of us expected.