Not long after the San Francisco 49ers selected former Michigan kicker Jake Moody in Round 3 of the 2023 NFL Draft, head coach Kyle Shanahan joked about not drafting a running back in that particular round.
Intended or not, that was a not-so-subtle jab at two running backs whom the Niners drafted in the third round in the two consecutive years prior to 2023, Trey Sermon out of Ohio State in 2021 and Tyrion Davis-Price out of LSU in 2022.
Shanahan's run-heavy offense almost requires a yearly infusion of fresh running back talent, although the use of third-round picks on tailbacks in back-to-back years wasn't exactly seen as a good use of assets by many a draft pundit (the same could be said of a kicker, too). After all, Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner have enjoyed a history of finding late-round or undrafted running backs who have had successful careers.
Davis-Price, meanwhile, was viewed as quite the reach at the time, including by us here at Niner Noise.
And yet, as is almost always the case with any pick, it wasn't hard to talk ourselves into the Davis-Price selection as being OK.
Well, a year later, maybe it wasn't OK.
49ers probably made a mistake drafting Tyrion Davis-Price
San Francisco could have grabbed safety Kerby Joseph at No. 93 overall instead of Davis-Price, and Joseph's four interceptions with the Detroit Lions would have been appreciated by the red and gold. Or, if Shanahan still wanted a running back, the Washington Commanders' Brian Robinson Jr. finished his rookie season with 797 yards on 205 carries with two touchdowns.
Davis-Price's rookie-year stats were notably disappointing in comparison.
Bringing Sermon back into the mix, and reviewing his own disappointing 2021 campaign with the Niners, it's not hard to see why Davis-Price is in danger of being on the same trajectory:
From every statistical vantage point, Davis-Price was worse than Sermon. And San Francisco waived Sermon a year after he was drafted, going with the undrafted rookie, Jordan Mason, as a depth option instead.
Is Davis-Price heading in the same direction?
Why Tyrion Davis-Price is entering desperation mode with 49ers
Mason didn't just force the 49ers to part ways with Sermon after one year. The former, an undrafted free agent, also pushed Davis-Price way down on the depth chart, too.
During his own rookie season, Mason rushed for 258 yards on 43 attempts for an average of 6.0 yards per carry, and he seems to be a top contender to back up the Niners' new bell cow of a running back, All-Pro Christian McCaffrey.
McCaffrey is the unquestioned No. 1, and Mason is in line to be No. 2 alongside the oft-injured Elijah Mitchell, who outshined Sermon back in 2021.
Davis-Price could feasibly hang onto a fourth running back spot, provided neither of San Francisco's two undrafted free-agent tailbacks from 2023, Ronald Awatt and Khalan Laborn, impress too much.
Even then, it wouldn't take much for the 49ers to scour the waiver wire and find an upgrade over Davis-Price.
That means the second-year pro will have to improve upon the frustrating indecisiveness and lack of burst shown in what little action he saw his rookie year.
With at least three running backs already slated above him, that won't be easy for Davis-Price, who could be on the outs just like Sermon Was after one frustrating season.