Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

A sleeper RB candidate for the 49ers in the NFL Draft

Rohan Chakravarthi
Apr 10, 2022 at 4:00 PM--

Whenever you talk about the San Francisco 49ers and Kyle Shanahan, the primary offensive position is running back, making it no surprise that Shanahan and Co. selected not one, but two running backs in the NFL Draft last season.

However, could they be done at the position?

Currently, the 49ers host rookies Elijah Mitchell and Trey Sermon on the roster alongside veteran Jeff Wilson Jr. and Jamycal Hasty, who just finished his second season with the 49ers. However, the 49ers entered the last draft with a similar number at the position, yet elected to add talent to an already loaded room to account for the numerous injuries that regularly occur at the position. And, the gamble paid off, as Mitchell was placed into duty following several injuries, and ended up with a productive, 207-carry, 963-yard season.

Who could be that player in the NFL draft?

Earlier in the offseason, following the combine I highlighted five running backs that could potentially find their way to the 49ers in the draft, due to a combination of their speed, size, and receiving ability.

However, should the 49ers choose to target the running back position later in the draft, there's a certain sleeper candidate that could be utilized well by newly-acquired running backs coach Anthony Lynn: Alabama State running back Ezra Gray.

Gray, a four-year team captain at Alabama State, has had good volume over the course of his career, accumulating 100+ carries in three of his four collegiate seasons, despite being in a running back committee.

The 5'9, 185-pound running back not only has the ability to be a running back, but also potentially a slot receiver in the NFL, catching 41 passes over his four seasons. Additionally, Gray possessed special-teams versatility early in his career at Alabama State, en route to being named an all-conference kick returner in 2018, when he returned 26 kicks for 608 yards.

Gray doesn't only possess the capabilities of a football player; he's a smart, motivated student, who spends his free time trading stocks and pursuing his interests in technology and Business Administration, which he got his degree in.

Gray surfaced on the NFL radar during a highly-touted HBCU performance against Jackson State, led by former NFL superstar-turned-coach Deion Sanders, where he garnered 23 carries for 195 yards, including the game-winning 50-yard rushing touchdown with under two minutes remaining.

While he could potentially go undrafted, Gray told me he isn't fazed, as his primary goal, regardless of the draft, is making a team's 53-man roster come training camp.

Gray won't wow you with his frame or high-echelon speed, but his versatility could be intriguing to NFL teams, possessing good hands in his smaller volume, with the capacity to be a special-teamer at worst.

With a number of running backs on the roster, Gray would seamlessly fit in a committee role, preserving his body, while also maximizing his value at the NFL level.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • Frank
    Here are 3 RB's that could be a plus to the current RB corps. First is Hassan Haskins, Mich, 6-2-220. Ran 4.55, not real fast, but this guy has a nose for the end zone. Very tough runner. 2nd is Rachaad White, AZ St, 4.48, 6 ft, 210. He's an outstanding receiver, which is something Shanahan would like to have in his backfield. 3rd is Isaih Pacheco, Rutgers, 5-10, 213, ran 4.37. Tough runner with speed.
    Apr 14, 2022 at 11:19 PM
  • Bill Bruneau
    We do not need another not so fast RB. Not sure Sermon will pan out. The 49ers have been successful when they have had a top speed RB from Breida on. Mitchell is more like it and it makes an important difference. That ability to break out and do significant damage is key. Mitchell got hurt and our running offense suffered. We need another very fast RB
    Apr 10, 2022 at 6:19 PM

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