49ers roster 2021: Jeff Wilson injury makes him a stash player

San Francisco 49ers running back Jeff Wilson (30) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers running back Jeff Wilson (30) Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports /

The 49ers would have preferred it if Jeff Wilson didn’t suffer a serious knee injury, but a would-be return this season could end up being beneficial.

Running back Jeff Wilson Jr. is one of the more underappreciated players on the San Francisco 49ers roster.

So it’s awfully unfortunate for him, entering a contract year, to suffer a torn meniscus during organized team activities earlier this offseason, ultimately forcing him out of action for four to six months.

Hopefully, Wilson’s recovery will mean a return at some point in 2021.

Wilson, a former undrafted free-agent pickup out of North Texas, has only improved with each passing season. And every time he’s been called upon in a pinch, he’s delivered.

Jeff Wilson Jr. Rushing & Receiving Table

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Generated 8/3/2021.

In 2019, Wilson was vital in helping propel the Niners to victory in a late-season come-from-behind win over the Arizona Cardinals. Last year, in starts against both the Cardinals and New England Patriots, Wilson netted a combined 295 rush yards those two games, and he ultimately ended up leading the team with 10 touchdowns.

Not bad for a player who was envisioned to be, at best, the No. 3 option on last year’s running back depth chart.

Wilson’s role was likely to increase in 2021 even after San Francisco drafted Trey Sermon and Elijah Mitchell.

The injury changes things, though.

At best, however, Wilson could end up coming back. And if injuries pile up for the 49ers again, they may need him to be at his best once fully recovered.

Why Jeff Wilson improves with 49ers in 2021

As noted, Wilson has improved each and every year since being a role player his rookie season. While he did have two fumbles last year, his general fumbling problems seen in 2018 have appeared to go away.

Instead, Wilson has emerged as a much-needed power back with underrated pass-catching skills.

Despite the injury, the 25 year old is now entering the prime of his career with a complete understanding of head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Considering how much the Niners spent upgrading their offensive line during the offseason, one can figure Wilson’s use would be even more impactful whenever he gets the chance.

Why Jeff Wilson fails to make much of an impact with 49ers in 2021

The injury concern is going to be there now, and there’s always the possibility it sidelines him for all of 2021.

Even if Wilson comes back, though, San Francisco might still be too crowded at the position if everyone stays healthy. Along with Wilson, assuming he returns, the 49ers would also boast rushers like Sermon, Mitchell, Raheem Mostert, JaMycal Hasty and Wayne Gallman, who are currently battling it out during training camp.

Sermon, the third-round rookie, might stand to benefit the most in the wake of Wilson’s absence.

And if Sermon continues to impress between now and a would-be Wilson return, it’ll be hard for Wilson to ascend back up the depth chart if players like Sermon and Mostert remain healthy.

Projected future for Jeff Wilson

Wilson was one of three serious injuries the Niners suffered during OTAs, the other two being offensive lineman Justin Skule and defensive back Tarvarius Moore.

San Francisco waived/injured Skule, which meant he could have been claimed by another team. The 49ers did not, however, waive Moore or Wilson, meaning they’re fully intending on both players returning at some point this season.

At the very least, hoping they can provide some sort of impact.

This is good news for Wilson, both financially and in terms of whatever impact he might provide this season. Not only will he keep his contract numbers before free agency, but he could also be a late-season add to help reinforce the depth chart in case another one of the Niners’ tailbacks suffers some kind of injury-related setback.

If Wilson winds up coming back fully healthy, that reinforcement could play a big measure towards getting the team back into the playoffs this season.

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