Last week, I argued why having four running backs, the four running backs on the San Francisco 49ers roster, was good for the 49ers and Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Injury issues aside, Shanahan has all sorts of neat things he can do with this three headed beast created with Matt Breida, Tevin Coleman, and Jerick McKinnon. Obviously, this is all based on if McKinnon can return to form and everyone can stay healthy. If one does go down, Jeff Wilson Jr. can fill in. There’s also Raheem Mostert if needed.
Of course as I check Twitter I see some fans wondering if the 49ers will deal one of these running backs for draft picks.
Ok. Who? And for how much? It’s time to play armchair GM.
I’ve already argued how four backs is a good thing for the 49ers. Not only do the 49ers have solid depth at the position now, the group assembled also provides some consistency with Kyle Shanahan’s paycalling. A bell cow just may not be used as much—Alfred Morris was the closest thing they had in 2018 and he was listed as a healthy scratch several times. Le’Veon Bell, if signed, would obviously be used a lot more, but it goes back to just how necessary a player like him is.
So I wouldn’t touch that group. McKinnon already got paid a lot of money and now runs a bit cheaper while Coleman was a steal for what they got him for.
That said, if I was told, “Pick one or you’ll never play a video game again,” I’d probably choose Matt Breida. Now, don’t misunderstand, I love Breida and would not trade any RBs. If asked the question posed in the headline of this post it’s a firm NO! But if I’m looking for the best value in a trade, Breida would be the guy. Breida is on a UDFA contract and runs cheap as far as salary cap is concerned. At the end of 2019 he’d become a restricted free agent, allowing a team to control things somewhat. His 2019 cap hit is $645,000 and he’s played at a very high level since he came onto the field as a rookie. He snatched carries from 2017 starter Carlos Hyde, and may have had a 1,000 rushing yard-season in 2018 filling in for Jerick McKinnon if not for pesky injuries.
Coleman I don’t think could fetch as good of a deal and fits a nice pass-catching mold for Shanahan. McKinnon is coming off an ACL injury and I fear his compensation would be less due to that. Plus, paying him all the money just to trade him without playing a single regular season snap is all kinds of strange.
So I’d pick Breida, but I wouldn’t let it be cheap. I’d be looking for a late-third round or early fourth round pick. Yes, I said Antonio Brown was worth a 3rd rounder, but that is an entirely different situation when you look at age and contract. Breida would get points for being young, cheap, and a person to piece the offense together in a long-term vision. I even think my compensation is a bit low.
But again, I wouldn’t trade any of them. I see Breida with a bright future in the 49ers’ offense, but if I have this crop of running backs and am forced to make a decision, Breida would make the most sense from a compensation and what the 49ers could get. I think sending Breida off would cripple the 49ers from a depth perspective and also would make no sense as far as players of value. Just for the interests of answering this question.
Would you trade one of the 49ers’ running backs? If so who and how much?