49ers roster: Breaking down running back room before NFL Draft

Eli Mitchell #25 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Eli Mitchell #25 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

The 49ers don’t need to add a running back in the 2022 NFL Draft, but they could. Before that happens, though, let’s look at who’s currently on the roster.

It would be very Kyle Shanahan-like to add another running back to the San Francisco 49ers roster via the 2022 NFL Draft.

Probably not early on the first two days between Rounds 1 and 3, but grabbing someone in a similar situation as last year’s sixth-round pickup of Louisiana’s Elijah Mitchell could certainly be possible.

Mitchell turned into quite the pleasant surprise, setting a franchise record for a rookie with 963 rush yards over the course of 11 games, essentially taking over the RB1 role for veteran rusher Raheem Mostert, who was lost after Week 1 to a season-ending knee injury and subsequently signed a free-agent deal with the Miami Dolphins during the offseason.

Mostert’s departure likely solidifies Mitchell’s role as the starter this season. But the latter’s run with injuries over the course of his first year in the NFL casts some doubts.

And if we’ve learned anything about Shanahan since 2017, it’s that he needs depth at this position.

So, before the 2022 draft rolls around later this month, let’s break down the current crop of Niners tailbacks and what’s in store for them as the roster stands now.

Running backs currently on 49ers roster

Technically, we have to include the two fullbacks San Francisco has rostered, Kyle Juszczyk and Josh Hokit, but that storyline won’t end up being a big one in terms of creating the 53-man roster by Week 1.

  • Josh Hokit
  • Kyle Juszczyk
  • JaMycal Hasty
  • Elijah Mitchell
  • Trey Sermon
  • Jeff Wilson Jr.

Hokit, who has yet to appear in a regular-season game, likely remains on the practice squad as an emergency call-up option in the event Juszczyk is lost to an injury this season.

That aside, the real story will be the halfback pecking order in 2022, as well as what (if any) rookie winds up shaking up the depth chart.

Storylines to watch for 49ers running backs

As noted, Mitchell dealt with injuries for a good chunk of his rookie season but was nevertheless an impactful piece of the offense, also adding 19 receptions for 137 yards to go along with his rushing prowess.

While Mitchell ascended, the opposite happened with the 49ers’ third-round pick from a year ago, Sermon, who seemed poised to become a bell-cow type of rusher but only started two games and managed a mere 167 rush yards over the entire season.

Mitchell’s prowess helped alleviate what appears to be an early whiff on Sermon, but the latter will have a much better chance to assert himself in 2022.

He’ll have to unless he wants to fall into that “bust” category.

Read More: 4 Niners who need to avoid ‘bust’ moniker in 2022

Perhaps to guard against this, the Niners elected to retain Wilson on another one-year deal. While Wilson’s efforts in 2022 were nowhere near his team-best 600 rush yards and 10 all-purpose touchdowns in 2020, he does have value.

Do 49ers add another running back in 2022 NFL Draft?

We can’t totally rule out the possibility of Shanahan wanting to splurge a bit with San Francisco’s first pick in the draft, No. 61 overall, by the way of grabbing a running back. Perhaps, if available, someone like Michigan State’s Kenneth Walker III, Iowa State’s Breece Hall or Texas A&M’s Isaiah Spiller fits the bill there.

With five picks on day three of the draft, and Shanahan’s tendency to identify and develop late-round gems, it wouldn’t be overly shocking to see someone tabbed in Rounds 4 through 7.

Some names to watch include:

  • Jerome Ford, Cincinnati
  • James Cook, Georgia
  • Zonovan Knight, NC State
  • Abram Smith, Baylor

Any of these four, among others, could potentially push someone like Hasty fully off the roster while also competing with the likes of Sermon and Wilson for placement on the depth chart.

There’s also the need to guard against possible injury to Mitchell, too.

Next. NFL Draft: 3 prospects 49ers must avoid taking at all costs. dark