Anticipating an inevitable free agency loss of longtime RB Frank Gore, the San Francisco 49ers addressed the running back position in the previous draft, where they took Carlos Hyde in the second round. He proved to be one of the more promising rookies of the team last season and is expected to be the starter in 2015.
The 49ers re-signed Kendall Hunter to a one-year extension through 2015 after he tore his ACL last training camp. He was originally a fourth round draft pick in 2011.
This offseason, the 49ers added veteran Reggie Bush and signed him to a one-year deal. They also took a flyer on Australian Rugby League player Jarryd Hayne to bring in competition.
With all the additions, running back is far from a priority entering the 2015 NFL Draft, but the 49ers track record has shown they have taken one before. Since 2009, the 49ers have drafted at least one running back. In order, they have selected Glen Coffee, Anthony Dixon, Hunter, LaMichael James, Marcus Lattimore and Hyde. Both Lattimore and Coffee retired from football while James was cut during the 2014 season.
The 49ers could take an injured player they can “redshirt” for next year, or a project who can contribute on special teams immediately for this fall. With Bush and Hunter only under contract through 2015, they can easily stash an RB for later by selecting him this year.
Karlos Williams (Florida St.) 6-1, 230 pounds: Williams is a bruiser for a running back who underachieved his his final year at the college level. However, he has decent speed running a 4.48 40-yard dash and has shown the ability to block. He also has the versatility that the 49ers would want, where he can be anywhere on special teams if needed. Williams is projected as a middle to late round draft pick.
Matt Jones (Florida) 6-3, 231 pounds: Jones has the athleticism and size that the 49ers could want in the long term for a grinding running back. He cannot play every down, but they could like him as a third down option. One strength of his includes his pass protection abilities. Jones is projected as a late round pick.
Zach Zenner (South Dakota St.) 5-11, 223 pounds: Zenner is an FCS running back who has good speed with an ability to win foot races. It’s possible that they can play him at fullback, but his physical tools would be useful on special teams. He dominated his competition at the FCS level, but wouldn’t likely see time on offense with the 49ers. Zenner is projected as a late round draft pick.
Corey Grant (Auburn) 5-11, 205 pounds: Grant is a RB with blazing speed where he ran a 4.28 40-yard dash at his Pro Day. He also had a 37-inch vertical jump. With his explosiveness down the field, the 49ers could want him to be a gunner on special teams. Grant’s speed could vault him into being a seventh round pick, but he was initially projected go go undrafted.
Terrence Magee (LSU) 5-8, 213 pounds: Magee is a smaller RB who was part of a running back by committee situation at LSU. He is a solid pass protector and has good strength for his size. However, he doesn’t have the explosiveness for an NFL RB. Magee is projected as an undrafted free agent.
Malcolm Brown (Texas) 5-11, 224 pounds: Brown is good at fighting for yardage as well as pass blocking. He is a tough and physical player, but can’t be used on every down. Brown will be a seventh round pick at the earliest, but most likely goes undrafted.