Raheem Mostert had an impressive 2019 season that peaked in the NFC Championship when he ran for over 200 yards and four touchdowns. Mostert had me convinced that he’d play well enough in 2020 to warrant MVP consideration.
Mostert had touchdowns that were over 80 yards in the first two games, and that prediction looked good. Then, injuries happened. Mostert missed the next two games and would rush for 90 yards the following week before heading to the injured reserve two weeks later.
Mostert wound up missing eight games last year but still averaged five yards per carry. Had he played a full season, he would’ve surpassed 1,000 yards.
The 49ers drafted two running backs, which signals Mostert’s days as a 49er are limited. He could improve as a receiver and in pass protection, but you can’t have your starting running back miss half the season.
Age: 29 (birthday was April 9)
Experience: Five accrued seasons
After requesting a trade during the 2020 offseason because he wanted a new contract, Mostert is in the final year of his deal. Mostert’s base salary in 2021 will be $2.975 million.
Some fans have flirted with the idea of trading Mostert or even potentially releasing him. If that were to happen, the 49ers would save $3.1 million while only eating $458,334 in dead money.
He’s the most explosive player in the NFL. You want to hold on to those types of players.
Why he might improve in 2021
Projecting Mostert’s role is difficult as of today. However, it’s assumed he’s going to start, and why wouldn’t he? Kyle Shanahan loves speed, and Mostert is the fastest player in the NFL. Mostert brings more to the table than speed, though.
He breaks tackles at a higher rate than you’d expect, which is why some of his four-yard runs turn into gains of eight yards. So when the team calls a screen pass, it’s almost a given Mostert will convert it into a first down, at the very least.
I mentioned being a receiver and pass protection above. Mostert whiffs more than you want your starter to as a blocker. Mostert could eliminate most of his problems as a blocker by staying on his feet and not lunging at the legs of oncoming blitzers.
When it comes to catching the ball, there are too many “double catches” that prevent bigger gains. It’s unclear how comfortable Mostert is as a receiver, which is where the rookies come into play.
What to expect in 2021
Let’s say the 49ers run the ball 30 times a game. Mostert will likely get 15-17 of those carries. I doubt he ever ends up as a player who gets 20 carries a game. Shanahan may want to preserve Mostert’s health to ensure he’s playing into December.
Mostert had the chance to prove he could be a bell cow last year, but his body didn’t hold up. Remember, he added weight and still is around 205 pounds. So is there a chance Trey Sermon ends up being the 49ers' top back by the season's end? Absolutely, but not if Mostert has any say.
During 2019, I was screaming that Mostert should be the main running back, but it’s evident “less is more” when it comes to touches. The 15-17 carries per game could be on the high end, as Sermon and Elijah Mitchell are sure to be included in the game plan.
Does Mostert fend off the competition, stay healthy, and rush for over 1,000 yards? I have my doubts, but that doesn’t mean this season won’t be a success. Explosive plays are the name of the game and what makes Mostert so dangerous.
Being among the league leaders in explosive plays should be Mostert’s goal. If that’s the case, that means the 49ers are rolling on offense.