49ers: Running back depth is the most interesting camp battle

Raheem Mostert #31 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Raheem Mostert #31 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) /

With the 49ers’ use of multiple running backs, depth is important and makes for a provocative training camp battle this season.

One of the keys to the San Francisco 49ers team and their strong offense is the impressive running game masterminded by head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Utilizing a zone-blocking scheme and frequent misdirection, the Niners were able to run the ball at will for almost the entire season with minimal resources devoted to it.

In fact, of the four rostered running backs in Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson, only one of them (Coleman) was even drafted (and not by San Francisco).

Things are a bit different this year. Breida has been traded to the Miami Dolphins and his spot has been taken over by the talented-but-fragile Jerick McKinnon, which should be a huge upgrade for the passing game.

This would be a fine rotation, but things have taken a turn with Mostert requesting a trade after failed negotiations to make him the highest-paid running back on the roster.

All things point to Mostert staying on the team. He’s still under contract and there’s nothing stopping the team from giving some money to Mostert after the negotiations to extend star tight end George Kittle have finished.

However, it’s also true Mostert’s stock has never been higher, and in fact, may never be higher than it is now. If the draft pick is right, Mostert could be shipped off and the 49ers could turn to another undrafted running back.

Which brings us to the two undrafted running backs competing for a practice squad spot, JaMycal Hasty and Salvon Ahmed.

While ordinarily, the battle for the fifth spot on the roster is good only for the practice squad, or at best the inactive list during games, Mostert’s situation puts an interesting slant on things.

The 49ers are not averse to giving game time to undrafted free agents if they show the potential. They also have the ability to find the talent in running backs that other teams can’t spot, Mostert being a prime example of that.

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So for Hasty and Ahmed, they’ve landed in a good position to potentially fill a role for the 49ers in their rookie years. Running backs tend to get hurt, and the 49ers rotation is so deep it could take just one injury to upgrade someone into significant playing time.

And if they flash, like Wilson, the 49ers will find a reason to keep him around.