49ers Running Back Raheem Mostert
Before you incinerate me in the comments section asking me if I even watched the playoffs, let me begin this by saying I am equally entranced by the speed and talent of running back Raheem Mostert. He looked like he was on half-speed whenever he ran (yet still sped past everyone), and his explosiveness and power literally carried the 49ers to the Super Bowl.
But that doesn’t take away from the fact that he is one of the major candidates for regression on the roster.
For starters, there’s no way of knowing if he can do this again. More often than not, undrafted free agents who get their first opportunity to really shine at 28 years don’t continue to have the same success, especially at a position like running back where attrition can wear down even the best of backs.
Beyond just the idea of him replicating his postseason success, the position he plays lends itself to volatility and opportunities for players to fade away quickly. A former 49er probably best shows that.
The cautionary tale of Matt Breida
Matt Breida was a great running back who the 49ers managed to steal off the undrafted free-agent pile. He continually flashed talent, especially in 2018 when Jerick McKinnon was injured with his torn ACL and a hole emerged for starting running back.
Heading into 2019, Breida was without question the lead back and the primary option.
What happened next is probably a perfect example of why it’s impossible to view Mostert as a sure thing. Breida played pretty well during the early part of the season, especially against the Cleveland Browns on Monday Night Football. He looked to be RB1. Then everything changed, as I outlined in my takeaways from the NFL Draft.
It was first an ankle sprain that pulled Breida out of the lineup and allowed Mostert to showcase his abilities. From there, Breida didn’t have the same performance, despite being healthy. He began to have fumbling issues and soon caught the ire of Coach Shanahan.
Before you knew it, Breida was traded to the Dolphins.
That type of regression, from RB1 to afterthought, is exactly what could happen to Mostert this year. It’s not a guarantee, but it’s also not that far out there. Mostert also had fumbling issues in the past that he corrected this year, giving him more opportunities. He dealt with an injury: a broken forearm that took out a sizeable chunk of his 2018 season.
The fact of the matter is that Mostert plays a position that Shanahan manufactures production from seemingly anyone. Any small issue or slight dip, an injury or a case of the fumbles, or even a hotter hand emerging, and Mostert would instantly end up taking a step back.
The bright side for Mostert is that if he continues his hot streak and doesn’t have one of those slipups, the next NFL season will be a beauty to see.