2010 NFL Draft | Should the San Francisco 49ers Draft a Running Back?
When you have an elite running back like Frank Gore at your disposal, talk of using a first round pick on a running back causes many heads to shake and eyebrows to be raised.
However, a closer look at the San Francisco 49ers offense suggests landing a play-maker at the position is actually a move that may be well over-due.
While Gore is undoubtedly one of the more complete and explosive backs in the game, his worth has to be at least a little over-hyped, as he hasn’t come even close to touching the magnificent 1,695-yard season he had back in 2006.
Since then, Gore has still been a reliable, consistent back, rushing for at least 1,036 yards in each of the last three seasons, while also topping at least 4.2 yards per carry and 43 receptions in each season over that span.
Solid? Yes. Elite? Not exactly.
Gore has battled with his own nagging injuries over the course of the past three seasons, while also trying to carry the load of an offense that has struggled with it’s identity, flirted with a Mike Martz pass-heavy offense, and had no clue who it’s quarterback should be.
Now Gore is 27, nearing the prime (and eventual close) of his career, and head coach Mike Singletary has hinted that adding some fresh legs could help keep Gore fresh, make him more effective, and prolong his career.
We’ve already seen that last year’s back-up, Glen Coffee, probably isn’t the answer. He isn’t very explosive, and after a paltry 2.7 yards per carry average on 83 carries, it’s fair to say we’ve seen enough.
So, now that the logic that the 49ers could (or should) add another top back to the rotation has hit the open air, now it comes down to who they should select, and where they should select them.
C.J. Spiller (Clemson)
Spiller is easily the most explosive and versatile weapon in the draft, and especially at the running back position. In terms of a complete package and sheer ability, only JahvidBest comes close, and even then, Spiller is still tops.
He provides instant offense with a second and third gear, while also having the vision and hands to be an impact receiver and return man.
He is exactly what the 49ers are thinking of when discussing the “perfect” complement to Gore, and he should be able to step in from day one and help carry the load.
The only downside here is that his immense talent could cause another running back-needy team to reach for him inside the top 10. However, even the most skeptical of draft experts have to admit that 49ers would be kicking themselves if they didn’t pull the trigger if Spiller is available at the 13th or 17th spot.
Best is just about as explosive and athletic as Spiller, and it’s even arguable that he’s on the same level, if not a notch higher.
However, he’s not nearly as durable or consistent as Spiller. He does have slightly better timed speed, and would help the 49ers out in all the same areas that Spiller could.
If Spiller is selected early (as many believe is possible), Best would be an excellent fall-back plan at the 17th spot, as he’s not being regularly regarded as a first-round pick.
Considering San Francisco’s need (and want) for some talent and depth at the position, he’d be well worth the investment.
Ryan Mathews (Fresno State)
Mathews was very productive in his junior season with Fresno State, clearly exhibiting a natural feel for running in between the tackles, while also showing an elite ability to bounce outside.
He has the frame to take hits and push for extra yardage, while especially possessing the ability to elude defenders and kick it into the next gear.
He’s basically a poor man’s Frank Gore, and could work as a perfect complement and back-up, while also waiting in line as the 49ers’ running back of the future.
If the 49ers decide to pass on running back with both of their first-round picks, they could easily see the versatile and explosive Dexter McCluster fall into their lap, while the punishing, bruising Toby Gerhart would also be an interesting addition to the 49ers’ back-field.
Attention San Francisco 49ers’ Fans: