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Will McKinnon push Coleman for snaps at running back?

The 49ers have a few options at running back, no matter what happens with Raheem Mostert

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Divisional Round - Minnesota Vikings v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Earlier in the week, San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert requested a trade that caught a lot of us off guard. Mostert had recently signed a contract but wants to be compensated and paid like the best running back on the team and rightfully so. No matter what happens with Raheem, the 49ers have a few roles they need to figure out at the position.

PFF’s Ben Linsey believes there is a three-way battle between Mostert, Tevin Coleman, and Jerick McKinnon. Per PFF, Mostert forced 17 missed tackles on 53 carries in the playoffs while averaging over four yards after contact per attempt. Those are video game-like numbers. If he’s on the team, the job is Mostert’s. Linsey argued the small sample size makes it difficult to pay Mostert a big contract, and he’s correct.

If Mostert is gone, does that mean Coleman returns to RB1? When I watched Coleman in Atlanta, he was an effective receiver out of the backfield. For whatever reason, we didn’t see that in 2019 from Coleman, who saw over 35 targets in each of the previous seasons for the Falcons. As a runner, and this comes off as harsh, but I thought Mostert, Matt Breida, and even Jeff Wilson were more effective on the ground. Coleman has sub-par vision and left a lot of yards on the field. I know he has a history with Kyle Shanahan, but man 2019, aside from a couple of good games where the line did some heavy lifting, was disappointing for Coleman.

Linsey believes McKinnon is the wild card of the group. In 2017, McKinnon was the sixth-highest graded running back at PFF with a 79.6 grade in limited action. His health has been an issue, and we need to see if McKinnon still has that same explosiveness before back-to-back season-ending injuries. Talent is far from an issue, and that’s why the 49ers handed McKinnon the contract they did.

Here was Linsey’s final word:

The verdict: If still on the team, Mostert is the lead back. Coleman is next in line if Mostert is traded, but McKinnon will push him for snaps

The shift in workload toward Mostert at the end of the 2019 season and throughout the postseason should continue in 2020 if the sides work out their disagreements, and he remains on the team. By PFF grade and numbers such as yards after contact and missed tackles forced, he was one of the better runners in the NFL last season. PFF’s fantasy projections like him as one of the more undervalued running backs across the NFL. Obviously, that all goes out the window if he gets moved.

In that scenario, Coleman makes sense to fill in as the lead back for Mostert early, but I do think McKinnon plays a role in this backfield. The 49ers have kept him around despite his injuries, offering them every reason to part ways, and the last time McKinnon was on the field in 2017, he was legitimately good. Mostert’s situation will be one to monitor leading up to the 2020 season.

Some questions I have heading into the season:

Can Mostert hold up with an increased workload?

Is this the year we get to see McKinnon and Shanahan?

Will one of the undrafted free agent running backs emerge?

Will San Francisco regret trading Matt Breida?