49ers roster: Jordan Mason could seriously shake up depth chart
By Peter Panacy
Undrafted rookies always face stiff challenges, but 49ers running back Jordan Mason might actually be this year’s hidden gem for the offense.
In 2017, then-San Francisco 49ers undrafted free-agent running back Matt Breida was catching the attention of many a beat reporter breaking down the news from Niners offseason workouts.
It was unexpected, as Breida didn’t exactly create a lot of buzz for himself leading into that year’s NFL Draft, and the chances of a UDFA player making a big splash in year one are always slim anyway.
Breida ended up rushing for 465 yards his rookie season regardless, then led San Francisco in rushing the following year with 814 yards.
Impressive. And it’s possible the 49ers have yet another Breida-like player in their ranks heading into 2022 with former Georgia Tech running back Jordan Mason.
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference
The Niners do have a crowded running back room entering training camp, made more crowded by the Round 3 NFL Draft addition of former LSU tailback Tyrion Davis-Price.
Yet Davis-Price didn’t quite hit the practice reports this offseason as heavily as Mason did, and that could factor into giving head coach Kyle Shanahan an awfully tough choice when it comes to formulating his regular-season roster and halfback depth chart.
Let’s look at how.
Why Jordan Mason continues to impress 49ers heading into 2022
At 5-foot-11 and 223 pounds, Mason has a good enough combination of size and speed to serve as a well-rounded running back. He might not be overly fast or explosive, but his 4.58 40-yard time from his pro day is certainly enough to force missed tackle opportunities if defenders fail to take the correct angle.
Our friends over at Niners Nation translated into how San Francisco might appreciate this at the next level:
"Mason’s ability to excel as a ball carrier within the offense is what will ultimately propel his trajectory to a prominent role within the 49ers’ ground attack.Mason is an extremely physical runner who broke a tackle on an eye-popping 44% of his rushing attempts in 2021, which ranked him first in the nation last season. In addition to that, Mason averaged 4.4 yards after contact per rush, which was eighth-best in the nation in 2021."
Had Mason played a bigger role with the Yellow Jackets his last two years there, it’s highly likely he could have been an early day-three pick.
Still, perhaps the 49ers are looking to capitalize on this “hidden” prowess.
Why Jordan Mason isn’t quite what the 49ers need
Speed and toughness certainly help describe Mason, but back-end-of-the-roster running backs tend to need a lot more than just those traits.
Mason doesn’t offer much by the way of being a pass-catcher, thereby limiting his usefulness on third downs unless it’s a short-yardage situation. And as far as blocking is concerned, he won’t do much good there either.
As his Pro Football Network scouting report suggests, Mason either needs to have the play develop in front of him, or he’ll wind up being subjected to tackles for no gain. To quote them, he “doesn’t improvise,” and this might hurt his value amid a questionable Niners offensive line this season.
How Jordan Mason could shake up 49ers depth chart
Despite losing veteran rusher Raheem Mostert to free agency this offseason, San Francisco still has plenty of halfback options heading into training camp, headlined by second-year pro Elijah Mitchell and supplemented by Davis-Price.
Behind them, likely ahead of Mason on the depth chart right now, stand Jeff Wilson Jr., Trey Sermon and JaMycal Hasty.
Let’s assume the 49ers keep four running backs on their 53-man roster. If that’s the case, one could guess Davis-Price easily pushes Hasty out of the mix.
But, if Mason winds up impressing a ton during training camp as he already did during organized team activities, Shanahan might be called upon to make even further challenging choices here, perhaps going as far to bid farewell to Wilson or possibly even Sermon, the 2021 third-round pick, after just one season.
Mason’s landing spot could be anywhere from a No. 2 running back behind Mitchell to off the roster altogether in 2022, making his efforts in camp and the preseason something notable to watch.
If he excels, there’s a chance Mason winds up being yet another Breida-type player for San Francisco.