SF 49ers: 4 players who have most to prove over final six games

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens (4) Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers quarterback Nick Mullens (4) Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /
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Jerick McKinnon, SF 49ers
San Francisco 49ers running back Jerick McKinnon (28) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

The SF 49ers round out their final six games of 2020, yet these last games mean the most for these four players who are under pressure.

There’s likely to be a lot of turnover for the SF 49ers in 2021, both by the way of free-agent departures and general manager John Lynch moving on from players who are no longer deemed fit for the team’s long-term future.

In a way, Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan have already kickstarted this process, waiving wide receiver Dante Pettis and trading away linebacker Kwon Alexander earlier this season.

And considering the Niners’ 4-6 start through 10 games, one has to think both Shanahan and Lynch are taking a hard look at who needs to stick around next season.

The dearth of injuries San Francisco has suffered this season has forced depth players into the forefront. Many of these players are seeing the most amount of field time they’ve enjoyed over their careers, while others could simply be hanging on for the next contract either with the SF 49ers or somewhere else.

Others still need to prove they are worthy of starting roles moving forward.

Whatever the case may be, these four players are going to be under the microscope over the Niners’ final six regular-season games.

No. 4: SF 49ers Running Back Jerick McKinnon

Running back Jerick McKinnon had his chance to flash while No. 1 tailback Raheem Mostert was absent with a knee injury.

The problem, though, is McKinnon’s overall results have been less than spectacular.

True, McKinnon leads the team in touchdowns with six. But with Mostert having played only four games this season, one would figure he still wouldn’t be the team’s leading rusher with 303 yards on the ground.

Except he is.

McKinnon, over 10 games played and four starts, has accumulated 294 rush yards and is averaging just 3.8 yards per attempt. He simply hasn’t had the explosiveness and noteworthy contributions for which the Niners were hoping with him fully recovered from his 2018 ACL tear.

Mostert will return, yet McKinnon is likely to see ample field time over these final weeks. A free agent in 2021, it doesn’t seem likely San Francisco will retain him, meaning these last games will all but determine what kind of contract he receives on the open market next season.