49ers 2021 ‘Who is?’ series: Wayne Gallman now on the bubble

Wayne Gallman #22 of the New York Giants (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Wayne Gallman #22 of the New York Giants (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

The 49ers brought in a serviceable backup in Wayne Gallman, but further offseason additions have now pushed him onto the 2021 roster bubble.

When the San Francisco 49ers signed former New York Giants running back Wayne Gallman to a one-year free-agent deal during the offseason, it wasn’t too hard to see why he had an inside track to make the Niners’ 53-man roster right out of the gate.

After all, San Francisco had bid farewell to two of its former running backs, Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon. And with the knowledge two of the other 49ers tailbacks, Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr., had notable injury histories, going after someone like the 27-year-old Gallman made a lot of sense.

Particularly considering he was had on the cheap — a deal worth a veteran’s minimum of $990,000.

Yet the Niners added two more running backs during the 2021 NFL Draft, Ohio State’s Trey Sermon and Louisiana-Lafayette’s Elijah Mitchell, clouding the depth chart and making Gallman’s path towards a roster spot that much more difficult.

If Gallman stays, he’ll have to impress during training camp and the preseason. But fortunately, there are some likable attributes and factors that work in his favor here.

Why Wayne Gallman finds a home with 49ers in 2021

Gallman, the Giants’ fourth-round pick in the 2017 draft out of Clemson, was a solid feature piece his rookie season in New York but fell out of favor a bit before being asked to fill in for No. 1 running back Saquon Barkley after the latter tore his ACL early in 2020.

In that role, Gallman handled duties admirably, averaging 4.6 yards per carry and serving as a dual-threat pass-catching weapon in an otherwise frustrating Giants offense:

Wayne Gallman Rushing & Receiving Table

Provided by Pro-Football-Reference.com
Generated 6/16/2021.

Last year marked Gallman’s biggest use as a pro, and he relished the opportunity. And while he might not be the fastest running back on a roster, the fact he’s 26 years old and has the versatility to serve as a receiving threat out of the backfield should make him a quality addition to head coach Kyle Shanahan’s roster.

Provided he makes the cut, of course. Either way, it’s not hard to understand why San Francisco pursued him earlier this offseason.

Why Wayne Gallman gets pushed to the 49ers’ periphery

Mitchell and second-year running back JaMycal Hasty are already jockeying for the fourth and final spot on the 49ers depth chart.

But the biggest real threat to Gallman’s future on the roster is Sermon, who already worked with the first-team unit during OTAs earlier this month and has seemingly impressed in all facets of the game.

With Mostert likely not going anywhere, Gallman now winds up squarely on the roster bubble. And considering the Niners have more assets invested in players like Sermon and Mitchell, it wouldn’t be shocking at all to see Shanahan prefer two younger running backs as opposed to someone like Gallman, who isn’t under contract beyond this season anyway.

It might be tough for Gallman to stand out among a deep and potentially talented crop of running backs during training camp, which is why he’s back on the bubble.

Chances of making 49ers’ 53-man roster

If there is a hidden bonus, San Francisco losing Wilson four to six months with a torn meniscus clears out some of the logjam at the position.

Wilson’s long-term status is anyone’s guess at this point, yet the immediate beneficiary here is clearly Gallman.

Related Story: Wayne Gallman’s roster chances improve with Jeff Wilson out

Mostert’s injury history, too, should require the 49ers to stockpile additional running backs as well, even if they’re leaning towards assigning Sermon a larger role. On top of that, Shanahan has typically employed a running back-by-committee approach over the last four years anyway, frequently going with whoever is hot and then spelling that player on a regular basis.

It’s true, Gallman is on the bubble. But of the many other Niners backups and reserves, he’s arguably on the stronger side of things. Having nothing in guaranteed money doesn’t help his chances at all, but Shanahan won’t entirely create his running back depth chart based on who’s owed the most amount of cash.

As long as Gallman impresses a lot during camp and the preseason, likely having to beat out either Mitchell or Hasty, he could potentially stick around into the regular season.

Next. Ranking 49ers' 10 best running backs in franchise history. dark