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49ers explain decision to draft RB Ty Davis-Price, say there’s room for all the team’s RBs

Apr 29, 2022 at 9:50 PM--

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Why did the San Francisco 49ers decide to choose LSU running back Tyrion Davis-Price in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft?

That's a good question, actually—one that 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch answered when speaking to reporters after the conclusion of Day 2 of the draft on Friday night.

The selection of Davis-Price caught many by surprise considering the 49ers headed into the draft with plenty of experience and depth at the running back position. Starter Elijah Mitchell returns after a standout rookie season along with veterans Jeff Wilson and JaMychal Hasty, as does second-year back Trey Sermon, who didn't see as much time as expected in 2021 but could be in line for a bigger role this year. If the 49ers resolve their current dispute with Deebo Samuel, they'll be returning almost all of their rushing production from the 2021 season.

But that didn't stop them from selecting Davis-Price, who will add even more depth and talent to what was already a team strength.

The 49ers do have an injury history at running back, which was a big reason they decided to draft both Sermon and Mitchell in 2021 even though they already had Wilson, Hasty and Raheem Mostert on the roster. They needed both running backs to step up right away in 2021 due to injuries to Mostert and Wilson, then found themselves adding backs to the roster early in the season after other injuries. Shanahan clearly likes the idea of not being stuck in that situation again in 2022.

"I don't think you can have enough running backs," Shanahan said. "We took two last year. We were happy with our starter (Mostert) going into last year. We had other guys who had played well too, and we took two. And by the fourth game we're still having to steal other guys off other teams' practice squads just to fill enough guys to play in a game. So sometimes you can have good luck with guys staying healthy, sometimes not. So the more guys you can add the better."

Davis-Price also gives the 49ers a back with an intriguing combination of power, speed and quickness. It sounds like they feel he could be able to produce the same effect on defenses the 49ers were able to get from Samuel when they decided to line him up in the backfield last season.

"The physicality he brings gives you the chance to have a very physical one-two punch," Shanahan said. "I thought Deebo helped us do that towards the end of last year bringing that in, but you don't want that to be just your one-two punch. You've got to bring in some other backs to do that."

Where does the addition of Davis-Price leave Sermon? He'll have the chance to be part of that one-two punch Shanahan spoke of, but will obviously have to earn his place.

"We thought he had a chance last year, got banged up, was a little bit behind," Shanahan said. "But I don't think he can't do it this year. So to add more competition to him, having guys like Jeff Wilson, Hasty, guys on our roster, and now adding Ty with what Elijah did last year... We're a running team. We like to run the ball. Anytime you have a chance to get a good back, if that is what's best for your team compared to all the other positions, I don't think you can ever go wrong with a back."

Davis-Price wasn't expected by many to get selected in the third round ( projected him to go in Rounds 4 or 5) but that didn't play much of a role in why the 49ers chose him in Round 3. Lynch said they saw a good fit with Davis-Price and decided to make the move when given the opportunity.

"Obviously you take into account where the league values someone, but you're only guessing when you do that," Lynch said. "We have a lot of different layers, and part of our process is to try to figure that out. But ultimately, do you like the player? Do you have a vision for that player? And does he fit something you think can not only improve your team, but is that the best fit for us? At the time, we just thought he was a tremendous fit for exactly what we're looking for and I think a great complement to Elijah."

The 49ers may prove to have a need for all five of their running backs, as they did in 2021 after selecting Mitchell and Sermon. But it's also easy to envision a situation where there won't be room for all of them. It'll be an interesting storyline to follow throughout the remainder of the spring and into the preseason.

"I think we envision a great role for Trey Sermon going forward, for Jeff Wilson," Lynch said. "There's plenty of room for these guys. And most seasons we've used four, we've used five. We emphasize the run game here. We want versatile backs, and I think we have that with our collection of guys, and we're excited about that group."

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