Editor’s note: Matt Maiocco will provide daily content previewing the NFL Draft, including position breakdowns, news stories, mock drafts and more. Here, he analyzes draft prospects at running back, and whether the 49ers should select one.
The 49ers ended up with a running-backs-by-committee situation last season even if that is not how they planned it.
Carlos Hyde’s foot injury limited him to just one healthy game last season. Running backs coach Tom Rathman, whom Chip Kelly retained on his staff, was forced to get nine different halfbacks involved in the action.
Everyone but Reggie Bush, Pierre Thomas and Travaris Cadet is back on the 49ers’ 90-man offseason roster at this point in the offseason program.
“You look at what Carlos Hyde can do,” Kelly said recently. “He’s one of the really good young running backs.”
But, clearly, the 49ers need to be able to depend upon more than one running back.
Who’s here: Carlos Hyde, Bruce Miller, Shaun Draughn, DuJuan Harris, Jarryd Hayne, Mike Davis, Kendall Gaskins
Draft needs: Draughn was picked up off the street last season. He came in and played very well, finishing the season as the 49ers’ second-leading rusher with 263 yards in six games. He also caught 25 passes out of the backfield, ranking fifth on the team in receptions.
Harris, Hayne, Davis and Gaskins also earned their way onto the 53-man roster at points throughout last season.
The 49ers have selected a running back in each of the past seven drafts, including last year with Davis in the fourth round.
The 49ers have Hyde, their starting running back. It is doubtful the 49ers will target a running back within the first two rounds of this year's draft. But with 12 total selections, it is possible the 49ers will end up in a scenario where a running back is atop their draft board at some point.
Good fits: Keep an eye on two running backs in particular: Kenyan Drake (Alabama) and Tyler Ervin (San Jose State).
If Drake slips into the third day of the draft, the 49ers can be expected to be interested. Ervin could be targeted with one of the 49ers’ selections in the later rounds.
Both players are attractive to the 49ers because of the added bonus of being able to contribute immediately in the return game. Drake averaged 26.6 yards on kickoff returns last season with a touchdown. Tyler is adept at punt returns. He averaged 13.3 yards the past two seasons with two touchdowns.