The San Francisco 49ers have made serious changes at the running back position, but have kept starter Carlos Hyde in place. At times, it still feels weird to not be talking about Frank Gore as the guy carrying the rock — part of me felt Gore would never leave, but here we are.
Hyde has been an effective runner and is frequently labeled by other outlets as a running back that could really be special if he weren’t on a terrible team like the 49ers. It stings, but it’s probably true that Hyde would be a superstar already if the 49ers had some semblance of stability. Kyle Shanahan can’t bring that right away, but hopefully he gets plenty of time to work his magic and eventually things get there.
So Hyde is still the starter, but his backups have all changed. Last year, the 49ers entered the regular season with two journeymen in Shaun Draughn and DuJuan Harris, and the young Mike Davis all backing up Hyde. Draughn and Harris had earned their spots by playing average football when Hyde was injured, but they didn’t inspire a lot of confidence.
Davis had little time to prove his worth with the 49ers but nobody was sad to see him go after he struggled so much. Shanahan runs a running back-heavy offense, and Hyde will be his starter. But the 49ers spent a lot of time looking at Matt Breida, an undrafted rookie, in training camp, and he looks like he’ll be the primary backup to Hyde.
Raheem Mostert is primarily a special teams player but the 49ers will run a varied offense that will likely see Mostert take snaps depending on the situation. All three of the running backs on the depth chart should do different things and that in itself is an improvement as far as I’m concerned.
Then there is fullback Kyle Juszczyk, a favorite of Shanahan’s who will do a little bit of everything. The 49ers didn’t have a true fullback in 2016, but I don’t think they needed one either. The fact, though, is that Juszczyk is a very talented player who can do it all, and will likely see plenty of action in the passing game and as a ball-carrier.
2016 RB depth chart: Carlos Hyde, Shaun Draughn, Mike Davis, DuJuan Harris
2017 RB depth chart: Carlos Hyde, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, (FB: Kyle Juszczyk)
Today and tomorrow, we’ll be asking you whether or not the 49ers are better off than they were a year ago at each position. We’re starting with the running backs, and to me, it’s a clear improvement. Draughn was a lot better than most of us expected, but he had limited upside, and I think Juszczyk makes things a whole lot more interesting.
Are the 49ers better, worse or the same at running back compared to the start of 2016?
This poll is closed