When you think about a successful Kyle Shanahan offense, the first thing that comes to mind is running the ball. The high-flying ‘16 Falcons offense finished fourth in rushing DVOA at 2.4%. The ‘19 Niners finished seventh at 0.5%. Go back to Robert Griffin III’s rookie year when Alfred Morris ran for over 1,600 yards, and Washington was his best unit as they finished third in the NFL with an impressive DVOA of 11.6%.
The injury bug has bit the 49ers at every position imaginable, but we often forget how often it’s hurt the team at running back. San Francisco hasn’t had a 1,000-yard rusher since Frank Gore in 2014:
Longest time without a 1,000-yard rusher…#Lions – 2013 (Bush)#Eagles – 2014 (McCoy)#49ers – 2014 (Gore)#Jets – 2015 (Ivory)#Buccaneers – 2015 (Martin)#Dolphins – 2016 (Ajayi)#Falcons – 2016 (Freeman)#Patriots – 2016 (Blount)#Cardinals – 2016 (Johnson)
— NFL Stats (@NFL_Stats) April 5, 2021
Under Kyle Shanahan, here have been the 49ers leading rushers with their average yards per carry:
‘17: Carlos Hyde, 938 yards/3.9
‘18: Matt Breida, 814 yards/5.3
‘19 Raheem Mostert, 772 yards/5.6
‘20: Jeff Wilson, 600 yards/4.8
Of course, Shanahan is notoriously known for not having a “bell cow” at running back. Outside of a few teams, the days of giving Alfred Morris 335 carries in a season as he had in 2012 are long gone. Hyde had 240 carries in 2017, but no player had more than 153 carries on the 49ers since.
Jeff Wilson Jr. weighs 216 pounds. Mostert said he got up to around 205 pounds before the 2020 season. JaMycal Hasty is 205 pounds as well. Each player was banged up in 2020, but injuries have hurt the Niners at the position going on a couple of years now.
Mostert and Wilson Jr. are only under contract through the 2021 season. I have a sneaky feeling that the 49ers could invest in a running back a lot earlier than we believe. Shanahan gets his version of a workhorse that is durable and has pass-catching skills out of the backfield in this upcoming draft.