Running back Christian McCaffrey should do something in 2023 that no 49ers running back has done since Kyle Shanahan arrived as head coach – lead the team in rushing in consecutive years.
Injuries and availability have been part of the problem for San Francisco. They’ve simply had a hard time finding RBs who can stay healthy for enough games to lead the team in rushing in multiple years.
There’s also been a lack of a true No. 1 running back during Shanahan’s tenure. The team has consistently relied on a committee approach where they’d ride the hot hand, or have very specified roles that never let a player get in a rhythm for multiple seasons.
All of this has changed with McCaffrey. Despite playing just 11 games with the club last year after arriving via mid-season trade, he still managed to churn out more rushing yards than anyone else on the roster. He has the luxury of going into 2023 as the team’s No. 1 running back with no real competition for carries. Other players will get touches, but there are no question marks about his versatility or fit in the offense.
On top of getting an opportunity to be the team’s rushing leader in two consecutive seasons, there’s a strong chance he becomes the 24th 1,000-yard rusher in team history, and the first since Frank Gore did it 10 seasons ago in 2014.
With McCaffrey set up to be the team’s leading rusher for the second year in a row, let’s look back at each leading rusher for the 49ers since Shanahan arrived:
2022: Christian McCaffrey
Rushing yards: 746
2021: Elijah Mitchell
Rushing yards: 963
2020: Jeff Wilson Jr.
Rushing yards: 600
2019: Raheem Mostert
Rushing yards: 772
2018: Matt Breida
Rushing yards: 814
2017: Carlos Hyde
Rushing yards: 988
(Note: Hyde led the 49ers in 2016 and 2017, so technically he was the team’s leading rusher for two-straight years, but his second year doing so was Shanahan’s first season with the team. Hyde left in free agency after the 2017 campaign).