The 49ers running back depth chart has been something of a mess the last few years with injuries forcing San Francisco into RB-by-committee approaches and shuffling starters sometimes by the week. An MCL sprain in Week 1 that landed starting RB Elijah Mitchell on IR for a couple months has the 49ers again staring at a murky RB situation.
It looks for all intents and purposes that veteran Jeff Wilson Jr. will be the starting RB Sunday in the 49ers’ home opener against the Seahawks. Neither of the other two running backs on the active roster, third-round pick Tyrion Davis-Price and undrafted rookie Jordan Mason, notched a carry in the season opener. Davis-Price was inactive because Mason was better on special teams, but now they’ll duke it out in practice for the RB2 job according to head coach Kyle Shanahan.
“Yeah, for the most part,” Shanahan said when asked if there’s a competition at backup RB. “That’s what it was last week to see, we knew it was just gonna be special teams. This week we’ll get a feel for them on these three days and then we’ll go with the hot hand in the game.”
Veteran RB Marlon Mack also joined the club’s practice squad and could conceivably be an option, though three days of practice may not be enough for the 49ers to get an idea of what he gives their offense.
Shanahan said for Davis-Price and Mason their spot in the backfield Sunday will come down to more than just running the ball.
“I like their style of running, both of them,” Shanahan said. “I think they’re very similar. They don’t mess around, they get downhill, two types of styles that we need and that we like. But there’s a lot more to playing football with us than just running with the ball.”
He went on to say pass blocking, pass catching, lining up in the correct spot and special teams were among the things the team took into account when assessing what their other RBs bring to the table.
Ideally they’d likely want to see their third-round pick, Davis-Price, step into a larger role and take the reins as the RB2 or more while Mitchell is out and perhaps even when he returns. Mason had an impressive preseason though as a UDFA from Georgia Tech, and that may give him a leg up entering the week of practice.
While fantasy players may want a hard answer on the 49ers’ RB situation going into Sunday, it’s clear the answer may not come until the game is playing out.