The San Francisco 49ers signed Jerick McKinnon to a sizable contract this offseason, but it does offer the opportunity to go year-to-year. McKinnon will slot in as the starter, and second-year running back Matt Breida is likely to serve as the primary backup. The third running back slot is where the competition could be most intense.
The 49ers welcome back Joe Williams from injured reserve, and he will be competing primarily against Jeremy McNichols and Jeff Wilson. The 49ers signed McNichols to the practice squad at the end of training camp, and then activated him to the 53-man roster the final five weeks of the season. The 49ers signed Wilson this offseason as a UDFA out of North Texas.
In four seasons with the Mean Green, Wilson appeared in 41 games with 29 starts. He rushed for 3,205 yards and 32 touchdowns on 562 attempts, averaging 5.7 yards per carry. He also had 70 receptions for 527 yards and two touchdowns. In his final season, he started all 11 games and rushed for 1,215 yards (6.5 yards per carry) and 16 touchdowns, while catching 24 passes for 168 yards.
He measured in at the NFL Combine at 5’11, 208 pounds. He did not take part in drills because of a foot injury, but at his Pro Day, he ran a 4.57 40 and did 15 reps on the bench press. According to Underdog Dynasty, Wilson worked to put on 20 pounds leading up to his Pro Day, and the time was similar to what he ran prior to the weight gain.
Age: 22 (23 on November 16th)
Weight: 208 lbs
Signed three-year UDFA contract, with a $10,000 signing bonus. He will earn a base salary of $480,000 this season if he makes the 53-man roster.
What to expect in 2018
He is competing for likely the last running back spot on the roster, which means we should not expect big numbers from him if he makes the roster. I would expect him on the practice squad if he remains with the organization, but if he makes the roster, it would likely include a lot of special teams work and/or gameday inactives much of the season.
If he can find some opportunities, his strengths include solid vision and patience in lane development. It remains to be seen how he will play with the added weight, but the fact that his 40 time did not change bodes well. He got work in the Mean Green (I love saying that name) passing game, which brings value to his bid for a roster spot. He seems to lack top end speed, and fumbles were a problem for him in college. If he coughs up the ball too much in practice and/or during games, he could be cut sooner rather than later.
Odds of making the roster
He’s weak bubble for the time being. I have listed him with Joe Williams and Jeremy McNichols in that weak bubble, but if I were to rank them, it would go Williams > McNichols > Wilson. He’s got a shot, but it’s not an easy one. It seems more likely that he is a preseason second half star, putting up big numbers late in games and then cut at or near the end of training camp.