We’re going to look at each positions departures prior to Week 1 of the 2017 season and see how they fared after leaving the San Francisco 49ers. Some players went on to better careers, while others may be out of the league. We won’t be highlighting every transaction, just some notable ones. Today, we look at the backfield.
The 49ers had a bit of success in 2017 with the running backs, mostly because Carlos Hyde managed a full season without injury. Before that, it wasn’t the case. Behind Carlos Hyde, the 49ers had no change-of-pace back that could shoulder the load and they shuffled the depth chart behind Hyde quite often. While Hyde was the starter, he had a few bumps, notably some games where he shared carries with another running back (Week 2 against the Carolina Panthers comes to mind). While Hyde was placed on injured reserve, it happened prior to Week 17, shelving him for a week.
Fast forward to 2017, Hyde was healthy, and in a battle for carries with undrafted free agent Matt Breida. The 49ers didn’t change their carrying options near as much as they did in 2016.
Here’s a list of the more notable departures. Note that with some exceptions, many camp bodies, training camp transactions, and roster cuts during the season are not listed.
Note: Bruce Miller was listed as a tight end for the 2016 roster as the fullback position was eliminated with the arrival of head coach Chip Kelly. Because he never played a snap as a tight end, he’s listed here as part of the 49ers backfield and with the running backs.
Before the elimination of the fullback position, Miller was considered one of the best running backs in the league. Coming out of college, Miller was a defensive lineman, but converted to fullback after being drafted by the 49ers in 2011.
Miller again began a conversion to tight end when Kelly began installing his offense and had a shot to be a nice redzone threat with his size. However, he was later charged with assault for attacking an elderly man and his son—his second arrest with the team. The first was a domestic violence arrest where he allegedly shoved his then-fiance and smashed her cell phone. Following the second arrest, the 49ers immediately released him and Miller has since been out of the league.
Harris came to the 49ers in 2015 and managed to get into two games under the Jim Tomsula regime. This involved a lot of signing and re-signing as the 49ers shuffled the roster. In 2016, Harris played 10 games under Chip Kelly, starting in one and rushing for 138 yards in 2017. His average yards per carry in 2016 was 3.6, which wasn’t awful.
Harris was released in 2017 in the talent purge. He went to the Jacksonville Jaguars in August and signed with the practice squad, but was cut just 10 days after his signing. He has since been out of the league.
Draughn came to the 49ers in 2015 after Carlos Hyde’s latest injury forced him to the sidelines. Draughn himself hit IR in late December. He returned in 2016 and made himself a servicable, though not flashy back through the 2016 season. Draughn managed some solid receiving yards as a backup (263) and was a shining moment in the 49ers depressing season.
Following the 2016 season, Draughn signed a contract with the New York Giants, but was released before the season got going. He’s since been out of the league.
Perennial backup and missed opportunity as Flamin’ Hot Cheetos spokesperson, Davis came to the 49ers in 2015 as a 4th round draft pick. He quickly came in on a Carlos Hyde injury in Week 2 against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In 2016, Davis again failed to get consistency going despite changes in his lifestyle/diet. He managed only 50 yards with 19 carries and a single touchdown. His average yards per carry was at 2.6 was released following the 2017 NFL Draft once no one wanted to agree to a trade.
He found his way to the Seattle Seahawks and had some improvement moving his yards per carry to 3.5 yards and getting 240 rushing yards on 68 carries. It seems like he’ll be sticking around as he carved out a role on a very underwhelming running back corps in 2017.
Are there any 49ers running backs you’d want back on the team?