The San Francisco 49ers are officially into the offseason following a 2018 season that did not meet expectations. There was one thing that exceeded expectations though: The running back position.
When Jerick McKinnon tore his ACL to start the season it was well known Kyle Shanahan had to alter the playbook going forward. What no one knew was that this was a blessing in disguise of some sorts because it opened the doors for Matt Breida. Of course, then Breida got slowed down, in came then Mostert and Jeff Wilson, who showed great things as well. Let’s look and offer stock up or stock down for each player, and then stock up or stock down for the position group as a whole.
Jerick McKinnon: Stock down
If Jimmy Garoppolo’s stock went down after tearing his knee up, by Week 3, you know McKinnon’s stock is going to plummet when he had the same injury in the last practice of the preseason. What was the plan for McKinnon? Be hopeful we can see what it was in 2019. With any luck McKinnon will get that speed back, but knee injuries can be tricky in that regard. He’s on pace to return to OTAs and training camp, but we’ll need to see him in action before we can breathe a sigh of relief.
Matt Breida: Stock up
If not for that pesky ankle injury, Breida very well could have had a 1,000-yard rushing season. The first to do it since Frank Gore. Even with the injury, Breida played through it. How many times did you think when Breida collapsed on the field he was done for the year? He may have been out for two games total, but Breida stepped way up when McKinnon went down and kept the running game respectable. .
Alfred Morris: Stock down
When McKinnon went down, it didn’t hurt near as much knowing Alfred Morris was on the roster. Sure, he wasn’t a 49ers’ priority free agent, but he had proven he can play in Shanahan’s system. He started out great, but later was omitted from game days as a healthy scratch. When you’re not suiting up in favor of UDFAs, that’s not good.
Raheem Mostert: Stock slightly up
Mostert had nowhere else to go but up. Coming in as a special teams ace, Mostert’s ball control skills left something to be desired and when he was thrust into the lineup, fumbles followed. Then something happened: Mostert got highlights. Unfortunately, just as he was picking up steam, he broke his forearm and was out for the season. Given that he already supplies great value as a special teams gunner (which was sorely missed), and now has shown speed and elusiveness as a pass catcher/ball carrier, Mostert is a fine third option in Kyle Shanahan’s running back group. I’d say stock down, but Mostert’s special teams value along with the production related to how much it costs to have him, I’d say he’s a bargain.
Jeff Wilson Jr.: Stock up
An undrafted offensive rookie. When Kyle Shanahan activated him for a game day, you weren’t alone in thinking things would go horribly wrong. Turns out, Wilson played pretty well. He’s no Matt Breida, and he had his share of knucklehead fumbles, but he also showed great drive and speed with the ball. Much like Mostert, Wilson makes a fine No. 3 option at running back behind McKinnon and Breida. Mostert brings special teams value, but if there’s anything we’ve learned this year, it’s that you can't’ have too many running backs. Wilson showed he’s also one of the better ones.
Overall position: Stock up
If any position for the 49ers brings a lot of hope, it’s the running backs. Kyle Shanahan had two UDFAs in there at certain points this season and one of them almost had a 1,000 yard season. If McKinnon cannot return to form this will hurt, but for now everything seems to be going along without a hitch on that front. Without McKinnon, the 49ers have shown the running backs are in good hands.