Niner Noise’s 2018 “Who Is?” series on San Francisco 49ers players this season looks at running back Jeremy McNichols and what looks to be an uphill fight to make the 53-man roster.
Jerick McKinnon is a lock to earn the San Francisco 49ers‘ starting running back job in 2018. Meanwhile, Matt Breida likely has a slight edge over fellow 2017 rookie, Joe Williams, for the No. 2 spot on the depth chart.
Where would that leave fellow tailback Jeremy McNichols heading into this season?
McNichols joined the league as a fifth-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2017. He never made it to their own 53-man roster and was a part of the Bucs’ roster cuts in September that year.
The Niners signed him to their practice squad shortly thereafter and eventually promoted him to the active roster in November that year, where he saw action in two games on special teams.
While McNichols has a long way to go to make an NFL roster, there was surely enough about his college efforts at Boise State to intrigue coaching staffs:
McNichols was a workhorse his senior year but also a big factor in the receiving game. This is assuredly a reason why head coach Kyle Shanahan was intrigued when McNichols was cut by Tampa Bay.
Heading into 2018, though, and with a slew of players vying for spots at the position, what will McNichols have to do to earn favor with the Niners this year?
Why Jeremy McNichols Improves in 2018
Agility was one of the main strengths McNichols brought to the 2017 NFL Draft, having ran a 6.93 time for the three-cone drill at the NFL Scouting Combine that year — fourth best among participating running backs.
And at 5-foot-9 and 214 pounds, McNichols carries enough of his weight low to be effective while switching directions in a quick manner.
McNichols also displayed good vision at Boise State, and it’s possible to observe the ability in the video below:
These traits should be assets within Shanahan’s outside-zone system, which needs runners to have excellent cutback ability and vision to identify creases.
Why He Regresses
Among the concerns McNichols carries with him entering 2018 is what happened a year ago in Tampa Bay.
The Buccaneers’ 2017 ground game wasn’t particularly great, and one might have figured McNichols could have changed that after such a prolific collegiate career. But a Pro Football Talk report from August of 2017 noted how many mistakes McNichols was making in training camp.
Those ultimately led to his release, and it’s anyone’s guess whether or not his lone season in San Francisco helped him turn things around.
On top of that, the heavy workload at Boise State ultimately means the 22 year old has a lot of mileage on his body already.
Chances of Making the 49ers’ 53-Man Roster in 2018
As noted earlier, McKinnon is a lock to make the cut and start. Breida is in good shape, although he’ll be pressured by Williams for the No. 2 job.
McNichols will have to excel on special teams to earn consideration. Yet the 49ers already have one special teams ace doubling as a running back, Raheem Mostert, who was a big contributor in that department a year ago before landing on injured reserve.
Barring injury, it’s going to be awfully difficult for McNichols to make the cut. His collegiate accolades are barely enough to keep him on the weak bubble, and even that is a stretch with the Niners’ heavier interest in Williams.