The 49ers drafted Ty Davis-Price out of LSU with their 93rd pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. As somebody who felt like the team would draft a running back earlier than many anticipated, even I was caught off guard by the selection.
There’s a narrative that you can find a running back in the late rounds or as an undrafted free agent, and he’ll be successful no matter what in Kyle Shanahan’s wide zone offense. Many pundits have run with that narrative for years and ignored the evolution of Shanahan’s offense. We also forget what could happen when you insert a higher draft pick in the same situation.
First, let’s clear something up. The 49ers are no longer a wide-zone team. Since 2019, the 49ers have sprinkled more and more “gap” or “man” schemes into their running game. In 2021, we saw more offensive lineman pulling for the Niners than I can remember.
This carry from Deebo Samuel is a prime example:
Gap scheme power run with escort motion, straight out of the Ravens playbook. Shanahan called this back to back on the same drive for gains of 11 and 21 lmao pic.twitter.com/Ab1tb4FCyK— Rich (@richjmadrid) November 27, 2021
Whether it’s a counter, trap, or power play, these types of runs have become a staple for the 49ers.
Drafting Aaron Banks in the second round last year was another sign that the offensive is becoming more diverse. Now, Davis-Price. LSU bounced back and forth between zone and gap schemes but ran more of the latter.
Could Davis-Price be the Niners' top running back? Matt Maiocco believes so:
Then when you think a little bit more about it, by getting a big running back like this guy is, and he plays around 230, I think he’s more of an every-down guy than Elijah Mitchell. He’s built more to take the punishment of an NFL running back.
He’ll run over guys in the defensive backfield. And he’s got pretty good speed, too. The reason the 49ers moved Deebo Samuel to the running back position midway through the season was because they ran out of healthy running backs. He was more of a power back than Elijah Mitchell was.
I think Kyle Shanahan wants to have more of a back by committee, or at least two running backs splitting the load. Last year, they didn’t have that. I think this guy is set up to make a pretty significant contribution to the 49ers running game from Week 1 of the regular season.
The Packers dared the 49ers to run in between the tackles in both games last year, and they couldn’t do so with Trey Sermon and Mitchell. Green Bay would commit extra defenders outside of the tackles and all but tell the 49ers they don’t respect its inside running game. For the season, Mitchell averaged 2.6 yards per carry between the tackles. Sermon was worse at two yards per carry.
I agree with Matt when he says Davis-Price is more of an every-down back than Mitchell. Power and leg drive were issues for the rookie sixth-rounder. Sure, he would bounce off tackles, but when a tackler had Mitchell squared up too often, he would go nowhere on contact.
Davis-Price averaged 2.4 yards after contact per attempt last season at LSU. And while he may not wow with broken tackles, Davis-Price is much more equipped to finish runs and hold up throughout the season than a player like Mitchell or Sermon is.
Davis-Price likely cut weight to run fast at the NFL Combine, but he was listed at 223 pounds on LSU’s team website. The 49ers need a running back that defenses want no business in tackling when it’s time to run the clock out. That’s who Davis-Price is.
He’s also experienced in pass protection and knows how to run both wide zone and different gap schemes while possessing the physicality to run the ball in between the tackles. Davis-Price may not have been high on the internet scouts' big boards, but it’s easy to understand why the Niners were fond of him.