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Running backs under the 49ers Christmas tree in the NFL Draft

Apr 18, 2023 at 9:15 AM--

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The NFL Draft is like Christmas to football fans because you hope the college football players you watched will be selected to join your favorite team. This year, the 49ers have a strong returning roster without any glaring needs, so they should strengthen the team in this year's draft.

With Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell, Jordan Mason, and last year's third-round pick, Tyrion Davis-Price, on the roster and their history of getting running backs late or undrafted, don't expect one under the tree this year. However, if San Francisco were to get a running back in the 2023 NFL Draft, these three players could be a good fit.

Lew Nichols III

Lew Nichols, out of Central Michigan, can become a diamond in the rough like Elijah Mitchell. When the 49ers drafted Mitchell in 2021, key injuries at running back gave him an opportunity and he ended up leading the team in rushing yards. Mitchell and Nichols have the same playing style, are rarely brought down by the first defender, are solid pass-catchers, and can handle many carries. Despite both players not having blazing speed, one of Nichols' strengths is his ability to pick up blitzes. In his junior year with the Chippewas, Nichols rushed for 1,846 yards and 16 touchdowns, including two 200-yard games and a 130-yard and one-touchdown game against the Washington State Cougars in the 2021 Sun Bowl.

Even though Nichols didn't produce anywhere near the same numbers during his senior season as he put up the previous year, he is a football player. Nichols is not a "Hollywood back," or a running back who does his best work outside the tackles. He runs inside with authority and his threat to catch the ball out of the backfield is another feather in his cap. According to NFLDraftBuzz, a concern about Nichols is his limited route tree in the passing game. If this is a knock, going to San Francisco and playing in Kyle Shanahan's scheme will correct that.

Hunter Luepke

Since signing fullback Kyle Juszczyk in 2017, the veteran could arguably be ranked in the top-three all-time for the 49ers at his position. In his 10-year career, "Juice" has seven Pro Bowl selections and has become a fan favorite, so if you can find a player like him, why not take a chance? North Dakota State's Hunter Luepke is your classic "Steak and Potatoes." He is not a flash-in-the-pan player, but the effort on the field will show, and he can be another fan favorite like Juszczyk.

Luepke, who played with quarterback Trey Lance, is a hard-nosed lead blocker who will get the hard yards and catch the ball out of the backfield. In four seasons with the Bison, the star fullback rushed for 1,665 yards, earning many individual awards, including the 2022 NCAA Championship game Most Outstanding Player award when the Bison blew out the Montana State Bobcats 38-10 in the 2022 FCS Championship game. Even though the Niners have "Juice," it won't hurt to have Luepke on their roster.

Sarodorick Thompson

Thompson is not a "Hollywood Back" either, but could be a sleeper pick if he is put in a good situation, and the 49ers could be that right offense. In his five years playing for Texas Tech, Thompson averaged 4.98 yards per carry in a pass-happy Red Raiders offense. Because he split carries in college, Thompson's legs should be fresh, so you do not have to worry about wear and tear.

Thompson's career-best game came in a 2019 clash against Baylor. Thompson rushed for 153 yards and two touchdowns in the loss to the Golden Bears. According to NFLDraftBuzz, Thompson has good vision for picking cut-back lanes, good balance between the tackles, and is a capable receiver. Like Nichols, the concern is with Thompson's lack of route tree, but that can be coached, especially playing in Shanahan's offense.

  • Written by:
    Sports has been my first love since I was 12 years old. At one point I wanted to play football professionally. I started to take photography as a hobby in my teenage years but this was when I followed sports. I started to listen to sports radio, I found my true calling and it was to be a sports talk show host. Though I follow football and basketball, I started to have a new love of cultures around the world. After graduating from San Antonio College in 2018, I worked for the Castroville News Bulletin before going to A&M San Antonio to get my communications degree. Since I have written for the Ranger of San Antonio College, the News Bulletin and the Mesquite of Texas A&M San Antonio, I met many people and went to a lot of events. My major milestone was being in the press box of the San Antonio Commanders game for the Mesquite and being apart of a press conference with the Medina County Sheriff and other local news outlets. When I am not doing anything, I like to watch old cartoons on the DC Universe, play video games such as Mega Man and the Mass Effect series. I have also created Youtube channel called "Anger Management" with my friend Aaron Donnell.
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