The San Francisco 49ers have Carlos Hyde likely settled in as the starting running back heading into the final year of his rookie contract. The team does not seem to be in a rush to get him extended, which combined with the value of a solid complementary running back suggests the team will have an eye on what is a fairly deep draft class.
I bring this up because I continue to try and figure out what the 49ers have in mind for the running back position during next month’s draft. There is plenty of love for Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey in the second round, but would the team dare go earlier?
Bleacher Report’s Matt Miller has been putting out mock drafts all offseason, and for a while now, he has been connecting the 49ers with LSU running back Leonard Fournette. That continued in his latest 2017 NFL mock draft, released on Friday. He has Myles Garrett going No. 1, Fournette No. 2, and the top five rounds out with S Jamal Adams, DL Solomon Thomas, and CB Marshon Lattimore.
On the one hand, if you think Fournette is a once-in-a-generation type of running back, you certainly could lock down the running back position. Even if Fournette is splitting carries with Hyde, Kyle Shanahan has proven to be the kind of offensive mind that can find ways to keep both players productive.
This comes down to just how good the team thinks Fournette (or any offensive weapon) can be. The team needs offensive weapons in any way they can get them. Whether the 49ers think Fournette, Dalvin Cook, Mike Williams, Corey Davis, or even tight end O.J. Howard is the best weapon, I am not concerned about any kind of duplication at a position. It is one justification for Solomon Thomas amidst concerns he would be redundant as a non-Leo option.
The 49ers are not good enough to be drafting for a particular need at No. 2. They do need to figure out how much better that player is than somebody at a later pick, but best talent really is critical t this point. If Leonard Fournette is not the clear cut best option at No. 2, then yes, look other directions. But if they think he is, so be it.