There comes a time in every franchise’s history when they must begin to look at replacing one or more of their older stars. Sometimes it’s replacing a four time Super Bowl Champion quarterback, sometimes it means replacing the greatest wide receiver of all time, and sometimes it is time to start thinking about replacing arguably the best running back in 49er history, the teams all-time leading rusher, #21 Frank Gore.
Now, before you round up your posse, grab some torches and pitchforks and hunt me down for saying such vile things and even daring to speak of replacing “The Inconvenient Truth” (thanks Madden 12) Frank Gore, allow me to explain…
Frank Gore is not going anywhere. He is a Niner through and through, he definitely bleeds red and gold and I have no doubt he will retire as a San Francisco 49er. That being said, let’s face facts, Frank is entering his 8th season as the running back for the 49ers and is doing so on surgically repaired knees, a bum hip, and is generally getting older. Running backs in the National Football League that have “long” careers are usually pushing their limits physically by about year eight or nine and are kidding themselves at years 10,11, and 12. Like it or not Niner fans, Frank Gore is entering the twilight of his career. In this writer’s opinion, he has a maximum of three years left before he is done, and that makes this years draft a perfect time to start looking for Frank’s eventual replacement.
For those of you still doubting or sitting there steaming and getting all Lawry’s Seasoning Salt on me about this whole thing, ask yourself this: Why did the 49ers bring in Brandon Jacobs this season and sign him to a 1 year deal? A running back similar in size and age to Frank, he is an obvious choice to spell Frank should the workload prove to much for Frank at any time during this season. The goal is Super Bowl homeboy, keeping Frank healthy for the playoffs becomes priority number one and Jacobs accomplishes this very well. He also provides security, with little commitment, leaving the window open for the Niners to look at some blue chip guys or steals late in this years draft.
So as it stands the 49ers have three options when it comes to replacing the the great Frank Gore:
- Draft a running back during the 2012 NFL Draft.
- Go at it with Kendall Hunter or Anthony Dixon when Frank retires.
- Wait and see what happens.
Option #3, no thanks. That doesn’t seem like the 49ers big whigs style. That leaves option one or two. Now, when it comes to the two existing running backs on the 49ers depth chart, I don’t see Kendall Hunter as an every down back in this league on this team so he is out. Anthony Dixon on the other hand, could be Frank Gore’s clone, and is an option for replacing Frank in my opinion, if they are looking for another back with the same style as Gore.
This story could end there, but that wouldn’t be a very entertaining article, so I am going to choose option three and in that vein I have compiled a list of four potential replacements depending on when the 49ers want to look at the running back position.
Starting with early on in the draft, the 49ers have the 30th overall pick in the first round and then the 29th pick in the 2nd round (61st overall). Their subsequent picks are 92nd, 125th, 165th, 199th (the Tom Brady pick), and 237th overall. In order of rounds in which they are projected to go, or in which round I think the Niners could pick them up, here are my recommendations for running backs I would love to see in the 49er backfield in the future:
Round 1 or 2: David Wilson, 5’10″ 206 lbs. from Virginia Tech. Wilson was ACC player of the year last year averaging 5.9 yards per carry. He is a scrappy guy who will lower his pads and smash dudes but is also quick (4.49 forty time) and can make guys miss in space with his cuts.
Round 2, 3 or 4: Isaiah Pead, 5’10″ 197 lbs. from Cincinnati. This guys has all the intangibles, he can catch out of the backfield, he can cut and juke with the best of them and when he needs to he can push that right joystick forward and knock some guys over. Some project him as a second round guy but I think his attitude and the comments some are making about his work ethic could drop him to that 92nd overall pick where the Niners could swoop him up and Jim Harbaugh could change his attitude right quick.
Round 4, 5 or 6: Brandon Bolden, 5’11″ 222 lbs. from Ole Miss. This guy is another guy who’s stock could fall because of past behavior problems off the field. I don’t see that being a problem for Harbaugh and his staff so let’s leave that alone. This guy falling to the Niners at 165 or 199 could be heaven sent. He is a guy that is a prototypical Harbaugh style RB. He rarely goes down on the first hit, he is tough, but he can also cut and move with ease.
Round 5, 6 or 7: Vick Ballard, 5’10″ 219 lbs. from Mississippi State. This guy is a project. he could come in right away and make an impact on third down, and in the pass protection, two of his strong suits according to scouts, but is a couple years away from being a starter. He would require some work on his head and learning the NFL game and how to run in space, but that’s okay right? We don’t need him to carry 300 times his first year.
So there you have it. Four running backs that I think fit the mold of what the 49ers could be looking for in a potential replacement for Frank Gore. I wouldn’t mind seeing any of these four guys in red & gold in the future. I understand that the 49ers are also in need of a right guard, a CB, and possibly a DE, but let’s face it, the York family, Jim Harbaugh, and the entire 49ers organization are building a dynasty here, and this years draft is not one where we have to draft for “need” so we can look toward the future this year and for the first time in a long time, the future looks bright.”