Last weekend the 49ers added 23 new players to their roster. They started by using all nine of their draft picks and followed up by adding 14 undrafted free agents.
There were a number of questions about the 49ers selections, with their decision to take a running back in the third round drawing the most attention. That’s were we will kick off our post-draft mailbag.
J_Churn, @j_churn – What possible justification is there to take a running back in the third round?
The 49ers needed to add a running back. Elijah Mitchell had a solid rookie year, but he missed six games to injury.
Trey Sermon was solid in his two starts; he put up similar numbers to Mitchell in starts against Seattle and Green Bay. Despite this, he somehow found his way into Kyle Shanahan’s doghouse and did not get a carry after week 11.
JaMycal Hasty and Jeff Wilson Jr, the other backs, were ineffective in the running game.
This ineffectiveness and lack of depth led to Deebo Samuel carrying the ball 80 times from week 10 through the playoffs. With Samuel set to get a big payday as a wide receiver, that volume of carries isn’t sustainable.
San Francisco’s choice to take a running back in the third round shouldn’t have come as a shock. Throughout the draft process, it was clear the 49ers would be adding a running back, and many of the names they were linked to were expected to go early.
Tyrion Davis-Price wasn’t one of those backs. The LSU product wasn’t expected to go until the fifth or sixth round.
Davis-Price is similar to backs on the 49ers already roster. He’s a between the tackles runner like Mitchell, who needs a high volume of carries like Sermon.
The best traits for Davis-Price may be his ability to jump cut and explode through the hole, along with his low usage before this past season.
Mitchell, Sermon, and Davis-Price give the 49ers a nice rotation of backs to wear down defenses and better depth than they had in 2021.
The 49ers have relied on the running game to provide the explosive plays in the past. With the transition to Trey Lance, San Francisco’s offense now has a downfield element that has been missing throughout Kyle Shanahan’s 49ers tenure. This also explains the type of running backs we have seen the 49ers favor in the last two drafts.
Christopher Cain, @C_Allan_Cain – The drafting of the Iowa State quarterback (Brock Purdy) seems like a head scratcher, especially with Jimmy Garoppolo still around. What’s going on there?
Despite the team saying they are ok with Jimmy Garoppolo being on the roster in 2022, I don’t expect the veteran to be around when the team breaks training camp.
Purdy’s athleticism and ability to work off play-action and hit throws over the middle is reminiscent of former 49ers backup quarterback Nick Mullens. When you add in the fight Purdy showed in overcoming not being heavily recruited to leading the Cyclones to several big victories, he has the perfect makeup that Kyle Shanahan looks for in his quarterbacks.
Nick, @H4nDiC4Pd – I’d like your thoughts on the undrafted free agent, Leon O’Neal. Does he have a shot at making it on the roster from what you see on tape?
I really like O’Neal. Would not have been surprised if the 49ers had selected him in the sixth round. To get him after the draft is a steal for San Francisco.
O’Neal has the type of versatility San Francisco looks for in their safeties. He reminds me a bit of Jaquiski Tartt with his ability to move around the formation and play well. O’Neal could be found lining up deep, in the box, or covering in the slot.
Rafael Aguirre, @Rafa_562_niners – Which undrafted free agent do you see playing week one?
I think it will be hard for any of the undrafted free agents to play for San Francisco in week one. The 49ers have so much depth.
For the sake of conversation, I’ll go with Qwuantrezz Knight. The UCLA defensive back projects as a safety who can also play in the slot. The 49ers have an opening at that position, and if Knight can prove himself throughout training camp and preseason, he might find himself on the 53-man roster to open the season.
Knight played six seasons of college football is old for a rookie, he will turn 25 in October.
Greg, GORO1680 – Why do we not take Jake Brendel serious as a starting center for the 49ers? Why to we assume it is Daniel Brunskill?
Brendel isn’t taken seriously as a starting center for much the same reason we see the questions asked about Aaron Banks; he’s an unknown.
Entering his fifth NFL season, Brendel has played 250 career offensive snaps, most of those coming during three starts with the Miami Dolphins in 2018.
Familiarity is also why we see the assumption of Daniel Brunskill becoming the starter. I’ve made this comment myself, and it’s known that Brunskill can play center; he made eight starts there for the 49ers in 2020.
Speaking of assumptions. Let’s not assume that Alex Mack will choose to retire. John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have not stated one way, or another which direction Mack is leaning, only that the announcement would come from Mack.