Who Could Be Kyle Shanahan’s Featured RB?
By EJ Daniels
The 49ers have been one of the more solid rushing teams the last 4 seasons. Ranking in the top ten in PFF’ run blocking grade since 2017 with a second overall finish in 2020. The 49ers have been able to pretty much put any RB in the backfield and have success, rotating over 7 RBs in 2020. With Tevin Coleman and Jerrick McKinnon set to be FA the 49ers should continue to find value options at the RB positions. Here are three value RB targets for the 49ers:
The 2020 season was supposed to be Marlon Mack’s breakout year. If not for an injury that shortened his 2020 season he would be in the same realm as Aaron Jones. Mack has a solid PFF grading profile with seventy plus run grading that last three seasons.
Marlon Mack has the burst and one cut ability to play in this zone running system that Kyle Shanahan has employed during his tenure with the 49ers; plus experience playing behind a top five OL.
This move would be ideal for the Niners due to the fact that Mack would not command a hefty price tag. Mack would only command a one-year deal worth about 1.75 million guaranteed. Keeping up the niners philosophy of investing little resources in the RB position. If the Niners can get Mack at that price they could have a deadly one- two punch of Mostert and Mack who are both more than capable of being an RB 1; and Mack may be able to cash out on the open market next off season with a good showing in San Francisco
Le’Veon Bell was once undoubtly the best RB in the league. With the ability to run and catch out the backfield Bell’s skillset will be an asset for any team. This move makes plenty of sense for the niners for multiple reasons.
Bell has recorded a seventy plus PFF run grade the last 3 reasons showing that he still can get it done on a per snap basis. His trademark patient running styles meshes well with the niners zone running scheme due to the fact the scheme is predicated on being patient with manipulating angles laterally and finding that one cut running alley.
Many may point to the fact that he hasn’t had a carry over 20 yards since his time in Pittsburgh. That can be attributed to first off, Bell suffering injuries at his time with Jets and most times playing through those injuries. Secondly, in Bell’s only full season with the Jets they were ranked as the 3rd worst run-blocking OL by PFF.
Once again, the niners should target Bell because they could get high end production for a small price tag. Bell would only command a two-year deal worth about five million dollars in guaranteed money.
While Bell has many productive seasons in the NFL he hasn’t hit the dreaded thirty years old mark which in todays in NFL is pretty much a death sentence. If the niners can get Bell at the right price tag this could be one of the steals of free agency.
Jamaal Williams at twenty five , has shown the ability to be an above average runner, receiver, and pass blocker. He has posted PFF grades of at least 83.3 in all three categories even if they didn’t come all in one year.
Williams has only seen five hundred plus snaps once in his career with yielding little wear on his body and has familiarity with working in a committee. One thing that should be intriguing to the Niners is his familiarity working in an outside zone system.
With Shanahan and Packers coach Matt Lafleur almost being joint at the hip in their early years in the NFL. The transition from the Packers to the Niners could be a smooth one for Williams
Keeping up with the same thesis, the Niners have thrived off of relying on their outstanding run blocking and investing little resources at the RB position.
A potential deal for Williams would be a little less than what Le’Veon Bell would command at two years with four million in guarantees. Signing Williams will not only be the cheaper options but a sneaky option.
Signing Williams would not only solidify the RB two spot but yield high dividends that would give the Niners leverage if Raheem Mostert were to ever clamor again for more money.