Running Back Depth Yet Another Issue For 49ers

The bad news just keeps piling up for the San Francisco 49ers, as it now appears RB Carlos Hyde‘s availability for Week 7 is in serious doubt because of a shoulder injury. While it’s a significant loss to an already struggling offense, Hyde getting hurt shouldn’t come as a surprise as his vicious running style makes him very susceptible to injuries. While the third-year back had played in every game so far this season, he missed nine games in 2015 and two in 2014.

While losing a player the caliber of Hyde would hurt any team, the blow could have been softened if the 49ers had a little more proven depth at the running back position. Unfortunately, like the rest of the roster, there just isn’t much there in the way of proven talent. In Hyde’s absence, HC Chip Kelly will have to turn to second-year RB Mike Davis and journeyman RB Shaun Draughn, hoping one of them can seize the opportunity.



Davis has really struggled when given the chance during the regular season, and has 76 yards on 45 NFL carries (1.7 yards per attempt). He did play very well in the preseason however, and his recent performance in practice pushed Kelly’s hand to elevate him above Draughn on the depth chart. It’s possible that Davis could be a player who’s arrow is pointing up, but he’s far from a sure thing.

As far as Draughn, he did an okay job in an extended look in 2015, but ultimately averaged an uninspiring 3.5 yards per carry and was unable to break 58 yards on the ground in six games of extended playing time. He’s been on six different rosters since 2011, and has a career average of 3.3 yards per carry. Draughn is an accomplished receiving threat out of the backfield though, and has 55 career catches on 71 targets (77 percent).

So as the 49ers hand the reigns to two running backs whose combined career yards per carry is 2.96, you have to wonder why the team didn’t address the issue in the offseason. San Francisco had enough cap space and draft picks to bring in a competent backup for Hyde, but instead decided to resign Draughn, fellow journeyman RB DuJuan Harris, and use a sixth-round pick on RB Kelvin Taylor. That’s hardly addressing a need.

Ultimately, it’s another puzzling approach to assembling a roster that’s barren in talent, especially at the skill positions. While I admit Davis could end up being an intriguing option, more attention should have been paid to finding a capable runner or two as insurance.

A SUNY Oswego Alum, Al has been covering the 49ers and the NFL for various sites since 2012. From guest podcasts to work being used by ESPN NFL Insiders and USA TODAY, Al brings a wealth of knowledge about the 49ers and the NFL as a whole, and is passionate about his work and the sport of football.