The 49ers’ running back room appears to be deeper than we’ve seen in recent years, a positive development considering Deebo Samuel was essentially forced into becoming the team’s lead back at times in 2021.
But a loaded depth chart means a difficult cut or two will be on the horizon. In addition to fullback Kyle Juszczyk, it’s assumed that San Francisco will keep four running backs on their 53-man roster. Elijah Mitchell is the presumed starter, so five players — Jeff Wilson Jr., Trey Sermon, Tyrion Davis-Price, JaMycal Hasty and Jordan Mason — are likely fighting for three spots.
49ers beat writer Nick Wagoner of ESPN joined Papa & Lund on Monday, and projected how he thinks things will shake out.
“I think Wilson’s had a good camp when he’s been there,” Wagoner said on KNBR. “He certainly looks more explosive and has some of his wiggle back, being another year removed from that meniscus. And I just think the fact that he’s their most experienced guy within the scheme, that you would want to have that assuming that he’s healthy and available. I think he makes it.
“I don’t think Tyrion Davis-Price is going anywhere. They just spent the third-round pick on him this year and I think he’s looked pretty good. He didn’t have a great showing on that first carry in short yardage the other night, but after that he picked it up and was doing what we’d seen in camp which was put your foot in the ground, one cut and go. Be a physical runner, those types of things. I think they want to have him for some of those short yardage situations this year.
“Then to me Sermon or Hasty, I just think Hasty’s been better. I don’t know how else to put it. They’ve given Trey Sermon a lot of opportunities this year, they gave him a lot of opportunities last year and people were surprised last year when Elijah Mitchell overtook him.”
Getting cut would be quite the conclusion to Sermon’s 49ers career after being drafted in the third round in 2021. Sermon’s rookie season got off to a disappointing start when he was beat out for the starting job by the sixth-round pick Mitchell. Sermon rushed for just a total of 167 yards last season.
Wagoner believes it’s possible that the 49ers have already decided Sermon is not making the cut, and are showcasing him for a trade.
“This year, to me, it feels a little bit like they’ve almost been showcasing Sermon a little bit in these preseason games,” Wagoner continued. “Getting him out there first and maybe there’s a team that liked him coming out of the draft that thinks they can still get something out of them. He hasn’t had much success, and to be fair he’s a little banged up right now, but before that he had struggled.”
Even if the 49ers decide to add another back to their roster, Wagoner still believes Sermon is probably the odd-man-out.
“Now maybe they want to keep an extra running back, maybe they want to go that way this year. But even if you throw Jordan Mason into that mix and granted it’s been against third, fourth-stringers, he’s looked better than Trey Sermon too. The Niners have showed a willingness to move on from backs drafted in those mid rounds early. We saw that with Joe Williams a few years back, maybe they’re willing to do it again with Sermon.”
Listen to the full interview below. You can listen to every KNBR interview on our podcast page at knbr.com/podcasts or wherever you listen to podcasts.
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