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49ers running backs: Better, worse, or same in 2017?

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A position by position look at the San Francisco 49ers’ roster, and whether the team is better, worse, or the same as the 2016 roster. Other positions: QB | RBWR | TEOT | OG | C | LB | CB | S

The San Francisco 49ers face a lot of questions surrounding their roster in 2017, with the new front office and coaching staff bringing numerous changes. It is going to take some time to figure out where this team stands. The team was incredibly active in free agency, and followed that with plenty of work in the 2017 NFL Draft.

With that in mind, I thought we would take a look at each position, compare it to various points last year, and consider whether the unit is better, worse, or the same compared to last year. The table includes the current group of players, and then a list of players on the 90-man roster for the first preseason game, the players on the Week 1 53-man roster, and the players on the Week 17 53-man roster. The idea is to compare this year with last year across the board. The roster changes from August to December, so I’m including three separate markers just to provide an overall view of the position last year.

We move on to the running back position.

Running back changes, 2016-to-2017

Current 2016 preseason 2016 - Week 1 2016 - Week 17
Current 2016 preseason 2016 - Week 1 2016 - Week 17
Carlos Hyde Carlos Hyde Carlos Hyde Shaun Draughn
Kyle Juszczyk (FB) Shaun Draughn Shaun Draughn DuJuan Harris
Tim Hightower DuJuan Harris DuJuan Harris Mike Davis
Joe Williams Mike Davis Mike Davis Raheem Mostert
Kapri Bibbs Kelvin Taylor Kelvin Taylor Carlos Hyde (IR)
Matt Breida Kendall Gaskins N/A N/A
Raheem Mostert N/A N/A N/A
Tyler McCloskey (FB) N/A N/A N/A

First off, yes, I did include the fullbacks in this group. In reality, Kyle Juszczyk is going to get work as a fullback, running back, and potentially tight end and wide receiver. But there will be plenty of blocking work mixed in to this, so I thought it made sense to include him.

Carlos Hyde tops the depth chart once again, but there are challenges on the horizon. Joe Williams is the guy many are pointing to as a big option for the future, but Matt Breida reportedly looked good in the offseason workout program. Plenty of eyes will be on them when training camp and the preseason get going.

The team also added Tim Hightower in free agency. He’s not a guy who will challenge for the clear starting role, but he could be a great complementary option. Shaun Draughn and DuJuan Harris have been the primary complements to Carlos Hyde. Draughn and Harris were adequate options on bad football teams, but Hightower could offer more consistency as a No. 2 running back.

Hightower has had a bit of an odd career. He played for Arizona from 2008 to 2010. He was traded to Washington in 2011, and suffered an ACL tear. That injury and subsequent complications cost him 2012, 2013, and 2014. He slowly worked his way back in 2015, and in 2016 was back with regularity. In 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2016, he surpassed 130 rushing attempts. Draughn has had 225 carries in his five year career, and Harris has had 145 carries over the course of six years. Hightower seems better suited to be a true complement to Hyde and/or either of the younger running backs.

This is a potential transition year for the running back depth chart. Hyde is entering the final year of his contract, and his future is entirely unclear. Injuries have been a problem, but whether or not he remains healthy, it would not be surprising if the 49ers moved on from him after this coming season. It’s unclear exactly how this will play out, and so we are left in a state of uncertainty about how this unit will look in the long term.

Poll

Are the 49ers better, worse, or the same at RB in 2017 as compared to 2016?

This poll is closed

  • 93%
    Better
    (1440 votes)
  • 0%
    Worse
    (7 votes)
  • 6%
    Same
    (100 votes)
1547 votes total Vote Now