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Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Could 49ers RB Jordan Mason be Christian McCaffrey’s primary backup in 2023?

Rohan Chakravarthi
Jun 4, 2023 at 5:38 PM--

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The San Francisco 49ers added a duo of running backs prior to last season by selecting Tyrion Davis-Price in the third round and signing Jordan Mason as an undrafted free agent.

Despite an injury to Elijah Mitchell in Week 1, neither running back saw an enhanced role, although Mason looked the part in training camp and the preseason.

When provided an opportunity later in the season, Mason shined, averaging six yards per carry, while being used as a "closer" in certain situations for the 49ers.

After a productive Year 1 with limited opportunities, can Jordan Mason climb the depth chart and potentially unseat Elijah Mitchell to become Christian McCaffrey's primary backup in 2023?

While I questioned Mason's lack of usage early in the season as Jeff Wilson Jr.'s, the addition of Christian McCaffrey obviously created a logjam at the position, especially once Elijah Mitchell returned from injury.

Mason was a clear bruiser, and successful at that. However, with the skillset that McCaffrey brought to the team upon his arrival, specifically as a third-down back, there were questions of "fit" that potentially kept the undrafted rookie off the field.

However, that might be changing in 2023, as early reports have Mason being fluid with the ball in his hands as a pass-catcher, which he showcased glimpses of during training camp last season.

Here's what The Athletic's Matt Barrows had to say on the emphasis on pass-catching out of the backfield during the open OTA practices.

"As a result, route running and pass catching are a major emphasis for the running back group this season. Mason, in particular, has seemed to make strides. He's caught a lot of passes in the two practices that have been open to reporters so far. And while Davis-Price had a drop last week, he had a long reception on a nice touch pass from Brandon Allen in Wednesday's session," Barrows shared.

With Mason already having success as a first and second-down back, the second-year running back could see a bump in playing time if he proves to be a capable third-down weapon as a receiver, opening the arsenal of plays that Kyle Shanahan can call when he's on the field.

Add Mason's emergence and consistency when compared to the injury-prone Elijah Mitchell, there's an argument to be made for the undrafted free agent to cement himself as the primary backup to McCaffrey.

While it would be smarter for positional depth to retain Mitchell, there's also a possibility he could be traded prior to the start of the season, which would be a statement about the team's confidence in Mason as well.

Regardless, the second-year running back was a clear standout from Day 1, and a year of improvement, both as a runner and as a pass-catcher, should put him in a competition with Mitchell for the backup spot.
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.


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