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Breaking down the 49ers’ deep and talented running back group

© Kim Klement | 2018 Nov 25

If you’re looking to find the deepest position group on the San Francisco 49ers’ roster, a safe bet might be the running backs. After injuries hit the backfield hard in 2018, the Niners now appear to have multiple options, all of whom will be in a fierce competition to get touches. Here’s a look at the main pieces:

Matt Breida

A perfect fit for Kyle Shanahan’s system, Breida might be the best pure runner out of the group. He led the team with 814 rushing yards in 2018, and his 5.3 yards per carry was good for fourth best in the NFL. Breida also showed he’s capable of the big play, as he was one of only six backs with 10 runs or more of 20-plus yards.

As far as the passing game, Breida showed growth, catching 87 percent of the throws that came his way. Even more impressive, he didn’t drop a pass on 31 targets, which was a large improvement over his rookie campaign when he dropped five of 36 catchable balls. Overall, Pro Football Focus listed Breida as having the fourth best passer rating when targeted last year at 123.3

Tevin Coleman

Bringing Coleman into the fold as a free agent this offseason almost made too much sense, as the four-year veteran spent his first two seasons under the tutelage of Shanahan with the Atlanta Falcons in 2015-16. During that time, Coleman was perfectly suited playing Robin to Devonta Freeman’s Batman, racking up 913 yards on 205 total carries.

Despite playing mostly in a time share, Coleman was still able to average 30 receptions the last three seasons, and has 29 total touchdowns since 2015. No other 49ers running back has more than 12 for their careers.

Jerick McKinnon

Known mostly for what he can do catching the ball out of the backfield, McKinnon had a total of 94 receptions his last two years with the Minnesota Vikings. It was that trait that seemed interest the 49ers when they signed him to a lucrative free agent contract prior to the 2018 season.

Unfortunately, McKinnon’s ACL tear kept him off the field for all of last year, and leaves him as a question mark heading into year two with San Francisco. Even if he does return to form, McKinnon hasn’t proven to be a prolific runner. His 3.58 yards per carry average from 2016-17 could prove to be a red flag.

Raheem Mostert

Because of the impact he makes on special teams, Mostert’s place on the roster seems secure, and it appears he’s a lock to dress on game days. While he doesn’t have much of a track record on terms of touching the ball, Mostert did gain 261 yards on just 34 carries in 2018, and averages 7.2 yards per rush for his career.


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