The San Francisco 49ers have been unpredictable, among several other things, when it comes to selecting in the third round of the NFL Draft under general manager John Lynch. The team’s hit rate leaves plenty to be desired, while their process has been unorthodox.
So, in 2022, when the Niners selected a running back for the second year in a row with pick No. 93 in the draft, most questions started or ended with “why?”
We had our ideas. Elijah Mitchell was banged up. Trey Sermon didn’t hit the ground running as the team had hoped. But when the selection was announced as Ty Davis-Price, a player projected to go closer to the middle of the fifth round than the end of the third, those questions turned into emphatic statements of doubt.
Kyle Shanahan’s offense was known to feature predominant zone running schemes. Davis-Price, an LSU alum, came from an offense that used more traditional gap running schemes. Factoring in the differences in offense plus the lack of explosiveness, and it was easy to question the pick of TDP at the time.
Using hindsight, the team likely wanted a big, bruising back who could stay healthy. Davis-Price was afforded a golden opportunity heading into Week 2 of last year after Elijah Mitchell suffered an injury. TDP wound up with 14 carries in what was effectively his season debut, although he only mustered 33 yards — with 20 coming on one carry.
TDP suffered the daunted high-ankle sprain. Shanahan provided an initial update where he said the injury would sideline Davis-Price for “a few weeks,” but Davis-Price wound up missing five weeks. By the time he returned, the 49ers had traded for Christian McCaffrey.
Tyrion’s final rookie season numbers show he’s a work in progress. He finished with 34 carries, averaging 2.9 yards per carry, didn’t score a touchdown, nor did he have a reception. As we’ve seen with CMC, the 49ers offense needs a pass catching threat out of the backfield to operate at its full capacity.
Davis-Price finds himself in an uphill battle on the Niners depth chart. He’s behind McCaffrey, and must prove he brings more to the table than Mitchell and Jordan Mason — who ended up with more playing time last year due to his special teams value.
Kyle Madson of Niners Wire believes Davis-Price needs a strong training camp to make the final 53:
The 49ers have a couple of second-year players in a make-or-break spot. Head coach Kyle Shanahan hasn’t been shy about cutting ties with third-round picks who don’t perform in their first couple of seasons. Davis-Price suffered an injury in Week 2 last year that kept him from making an impact while RB Elijah Mitchell was out. The work he eventually got once healthy was sporadic and unproductive. He played 70 offensive snaps, notched 99 yards on 34 carries and didn’t find the end zone. With Mitchell, Christian McCaffrey and 2022 undrafted free agent Jordan Mason all ahead of him on the depth chart, Davis-Price needs to show signs of growth in training camp to earn some playing time during the season. Training camp will be the first step. He needs to perform well just to make the team. Once he’s with the team there will need to be tangible on-field growth for him to carve out a role with the 49ers beyond this season.
Saying this season is a make-or-break year for TDP comes off as dramatic. But this is an organization that has shown a willingness to move on from its perceived mistakes, just as they did with Sermon before the start of last season.
Davis-Price is an excellent example to show how short the shelf life could be for an NFL player. He went from the starting running back in Week 2 on a team destined to make a playoff run to being inactive in favor of an undrafted free agent.
A lot can change from the time training camp starts to Week 1. TDP will have ample opportunities during the preseason. He’ll need to show added abilities as a receiver, a special teamer, and that he can avoid getting injured, as unfair as that may sound.
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