49ers 2023 NFL Draft strategy (no more running backs in Round 3)

Trey Sermon #28 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Trey Sermon #28 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

The 49ers should employ a very simple and understandable strategy for the 2023 NFL Draft, and that’s to not grab a running back in Round 3… again.

The San Francisco 49ers’ 2023 NFL Draft class will be a successful one if it doesn’t consist of one thing.

A running back selected in the third round.

This might be a difficult proposition, seeing that the Niners will have three compensatory picks toward the tail end of Round 3 this year, those arriving to general manager John Lynch and Co. because of the Rooney Rule and the subsequent hirings of minority coaches and assistants (Mike McDaniel, Martin Mayhew, Ran Carthon and DeMeco Ryans in the last two years).

That’s not the point, though.

49ers have failed at using Round 3 NFL Draft picks on running backs

During the last NFL Draft, San Francisco engineered something of a surprise with another one of those comp picks, grabbing former LSU running back Tyrion Davis-Price at No. 93 overall.

Running back wasn’t seen as a need, and Davis-Price wasn’t viewed as a third-round talent either.

In the wake of the 49ers using a Round 3 pick on former Ohio State running back Trey Sermon the year prior, getting Davis-Price in that same round seemed like an absolute waste.

Especially after the Niners ultimately bid farewell to Sermon after his lone and uninspiring rookie year in San Francisco in which he managed only 167 rush yards.

Now, it would appear as if Davis-Price is destined to be on the outside, looking in, after he rushed for only 99 yards on 34 carries and was a regular inactive for much of 2022.

In both Sermon and Davis-Price’s cases, other respective rookies shone more promise, Elijah Mitchell in Sermon’s rookie year, then Jordan Mason in Davis-Price’s first-year campaign.

If anything, Mitchell and Mason help reinforce the notion that head coach Kyle Shanahan can identify rushing talent late in or even after the draft. And that doesn’t even account for the 49ers’ midseason blockbuster for All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey last October.

So, why use a Round 3 pick on a running back?

49ers win 2023 NFL Draft simply if they don’t take a running back in Round 3

Knowing Shanahan (we don’t, and you don’t either), he’ll likely want a running back. After all, McCaffrey and Mitchell both have notable injury histories, and Mason is little more than a promising player who hasn’t done much.

However, players like Mitchell and Mason help reinforce that notion about Shanahan not needing to invest in a mid-round pick at the position.

Plus, with the NFL fully trending into a pass-first league, even a run-first offense can manage with a less-known tailback instead of someone drafted in the third round. Putting things simply, a Round 3 pick on a running back is a massive overvalue.

The Niners have other needs, too, especially the offensive line, cornerback, safety and particularly in the pass-rush department.

If Lynch, Shanahan and the rest of San Francisco’s drafting staff use those three third-round picks on positions other than running backs this April, it’ll be a win.

A massive one, especially in the wake of the last two years’ failures at the position.

Next. 2023 mock NFL Draft: 49ers watch rest of NFC get stronger. dark