Last month, SB Nation ranked the San Francisco 49ers running back group in the best in the NFL. Four capable threats, unmatched speed, and versatility give the 49ers a persuasive argument. How about if you broke up the running backs and ranked them individually? Former NFL running back Maurice Jones-Drew recently ranked each team best running back and put them in order 1-32.
The first question you have to ask is who is the 49ers RB1. Jones-Drew used Coleman, who came in at No. 28 on the list:
In a deep backfield, I expect free-agent acquisition Tevin Coleman to emerge as the RB1 for the Niners. He thrived in Atlanta under Kyle Shanahan and should find more success with him in San Francisco. The reason Coleman sits so low on this list is he’s part of a committee that also features Matt Breida (1,075 scrimmage yards and five TDs in 2018) and Jerick McKinnon (signed a four-year deal prior to his season-ending ACL injury in 2018). There are just too many mouths to feed for Coleman to be ranked higher.
Coleman’s availability likely gave him the nod. It’s a coin-flip on whether Coleman or Breida starts. The “starter” term isn’t significant, anyways.
The list also has Mark Ingram two spots ahead of Coleman. Ingram will get what’s blocked, and convert the short-yardage run. I’ll take the higher variance and gamble on Coleman’s big play ability.
As for the rest of the NFC West, David Johnson of the Arizona Cardinals was ranked No. 25. What a fall from grace for Johnson. In 2016 he looked poised to be the next great back. Chris Carson of the Seattle Seahawks was No. 18. Todd Gurley of the Los Angeles Rams cracked the top 10 at No. 6.
I wonder if Jones-Drew would have put Breida on a top-32 list that wasn’t just starters, but all running backs in the NFL. Also, where would a healthy Jerick McKinnon rank?