49ers roster 2023: Can Ronald Awatt have a Jordan Mason-like rise?

UTEP Miners running back Ronald Awatt (22)
UTEP Miners running back Ronald Awatt (22) / Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The 49ers signed UTEP running back Ronald Awatt after the 2023 NFL Draft, and there's room for him to be the next undrafted gem.

Every other year or so, the San Francisco 49ers somehow manage to strike gold at running back with one of their undrafted free-agent signings.

Back in 2017, the Niners began turning UDFA rookie Matt Breida into a household name. Most recently, 2022 rookie running back Jordan Mason was the name fans wanted to see emerge from the ranks of the undrafted.

Following the 2023 NFL Draft, San Francisco grabbed two undrafted free-agent running backs, Khalan Laborn out of Marshall and Ronald Awatt out of the University of Texas El Paso.

If you didn't figure it out by the title, this episode of Niner Noise's annual "Who Is?" series on each player from the 49ers' offseason roster focuses on the latter, Awatt.

As is the case with nearly every UDFA, Awatt faces some major hurdles if he hopes to make the Niners' 53-man roster during the regular season. Not only does San Francisco have awfully few holes up for grabs, but the running back group is particularly crowded and headlined by an All-Pro who isn't going anywhere, Christian McCaffrey.

How can the 6-foot, 205-pound Awatt even compete?

Let's take a look.

Ronald Awatt must beat out these fellow RBs to have a shot at 49ers 53-man roster

We could go into something of a scouting report for Awatt, but Niner Noise's resident NFL Draft expert, Jeremy Wohlfart, already did that with the tailback in a feature piece here.

Awatt does have some dual-purpose ability, which is nice, and his final two seasons at UTEP were productive enough to suggest he can carry over his talents to the next level.




Rush Yards

Yards per Carry



Receiving Yards

Yards per Catch






















Granted, Awatt isn't exactly a dual-threat weapon like McCaffrey, but the rookie has at least shown some capability here.

Heading into training camp, though, Awatt will not only need to beat out his fellow UDFA teammate, Laborn, but he'll also have to do what Mason did last year: beat out a running back with a significantly higher pedigree.

Mason managed to outperform one of the 49ers' third-round picks from the previous year, Trey Sermon, to the point where Sermon was dismissed from the roster by the end of the preseason.

If Awatt wants to hang around, he might have to do the same to Mason or put another depth running back, Tyrion Davis-Price, in his sights.

How much are the 49ers paying Ronald Awatt?

The Niners signed Awatt to a three-year, $2.7 million contract but with only $7,000 guaranteed, according to Over the Cap, which essentially means he can be dismissed at any moment with virtually no financial impact.

This season, should he make the roster, Awatt will earn $750,000 in base salary and will receive one-third of his $2,000 signing bonus.

Read More: Analyzing each UDFA the 49ers signed this offseason

That's not enough to be counted into the top 51 contracts San Francisco has during the offseason, the group that determine the 49ers' salary cap space.

Will Ronald Awatt make the 49ers' 53-man roster in 2023?

McCaffrey, Mason, Davis-Price, Laborn and Elijah Mitchell are all going to take away touches from Awatt during training camp and in the preseason.

Well, McCaffrey might not see the field during the exhibition phase, but that doesn't change the fact the Niners have a crowded running back room.

Laborn actually might have more pure talent than Awatt, and the former would probably be a safer bet in terms of a rookie UDFA making the 53-man roster this season. If Awatt beats out Laborn and also outperforms someone like Davis-Price, it's possible the UTEP standout winds up clinging onto a No. 4 spot on the regular-season depth chart.

It's just not likely.

San Francisco might use Awatt as a preseason rusher and little else, giving him an added workload to get the ground game fueled without exposing players like McCaffrey and Mitchell to unnecessary injury.

After that, Awatt's best chance of hanging around with the 49ers will likely be on the practice squad.

But many an analyst though that'd be the case with Mason last year, too, and he survived the cut. Perhaps Awatt is next in line.

Read more from Niner Noise