The 49ers’ run game hasn’t been particularly effective this season. As a result, they’ve been in the bottom five of a lot of the advanced metrics (EPA/play, Success Rate, DVOA, etc.).
The starter going into the season, Elijah Mitchell, is still set to miss another month with an MCL sprain, and they’ve had to manage with Jeff Wilson Jr. and Tevin Coleman the last few weeks.
So what do Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch do?
Trade for one of the most dynamic, dual-threat running backs the league has seen in Christian McCaffrey. Unfortunately, he comes to the 49ers with an injury history, missing the majority of games the last two seasons, which is probably the biggest concern for the team.
That being said, when he’s healthy, Shanahan should be able to line up McCaffrey all over the field, moving him around the offense like a chess piece. Mix that in with Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, George Kittle, and Kyle Juszczyk — the 49ers’ offense could be lethal.
The trade signals a bigger picture thought: the 49ers’ brass believes that they have a roster that could win it all in a wide-open NFC.
They’re sitting at 3-3 currently, with three ugly losses, but a lot of the advanced metrics have them as one of the five best teams in the NFL, such as DVOA and Offensive/Defensive EPA/Play.
When healthy, their defense is the best in the NFL, and their offense has enough weapons to be successful. We’ve seen what the 49ers can be when they’re healthy and whole, but they were just missing some punch at running back.
San Francisco moved a second, third, and fourth-round pick in 2023, along with a fifth-round pick in 2025, to make this move for Christian McCaffrey. This isn’t a long-term play for 3 or 4 years down the line.
This is an aggressive, Rams-like move to put the 49ers in the best position possible to win a Super Bowl this season.
If the 49ers can fit all the pieces of the puzzle on offense while getting as healthy as possible on defense, they believe that they’ll be right atop the NFC in January and February when it matters most.