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5 things to know about 49ers 4th-round pick RB Isaac Guerendo

Apr 27, 2024 at 12:32 PM

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For the fourth time in four years, the San Francisco 49ers have spent one of their draft picks on a running back, this time on Isaac Guerendo of the University of Louisville.

The 49ers traded two fifth-round picks for the chance to move up and draft Guerendo, who was selected at pick 29 in the fourth round. Here's a look at what to know about Guerendo as he begins his NFL career with the 49ers.

Where he fits

The addition of Guerendo (6-0, 221, 24 years old in June) could be an indication of where things stand in the long term with the 49ers' running back room, in particular among the backups.

Christian McCaffrey will obviously continue to get the bulk of the carries for the 49ers this season and beyond, but the rest of the team's running backs aren't signed past the 2024 season. Elijah Mitchell (the only one of the aforementioned drafted running backs to remain on the roster), Jordan Mason, and the recently-signed Patrick Taylor are all currently slated for free agency after the season, and the addition of Guerendo suggests that one or more of them could be an odd man out sooner or later.

It may be premature to say that for sure, considering how quickly things came to an end with the 49ers for former third-round picks Trey Sermon and Ty Davis-Price, neither of whom lasted into year three with the team. But as of now, the addition of Guerendo certainly adds some uncertainty among the other backup running backs.

Guerendo could also get a look as a return specialist this season. He spent time as a kick returner at Louisville as well as at his first school, the University of Wisconsin.

Speed, speed, speed

The first thing that stands out about Guerendo is his speed statistics, which are led by the blazing 4.33 40-time he ran at the NFL Scouting Combine. Guerendo had a 1.55-second 10-yard split at the Combine, as well as a 6.94-second 3-cone drill and a 20-yard shuttle time of 4.15 seconds (while also adding outstanding numbers in the vertical jump (41.5 inches) and broad jump (10 feet, nine inches).

Guerendo was a track star at Avon High School in Indiana, where he finished first in the state with a 100-yard dash time of 10.51 seconds and was part of a state champion 4x100 meter relay team. He's put on a lot of bulk since those days, but Guerendo feels he hasn't lost much (if any) of his track speed.

"When I did run 10.5 in high school, I'm at 195 pounds," Guerendo recently told the Indianapolis Star. "You put on 30 pounds, then you talk about, 'OK, can he move the same?' I think I can still move around fairly well."

Things didn't work out at Wisconsin

Guerendo began his college career at Wisconsin in 2018, but he faced some big hurdles along the way. The first was finding any playing time while in the presence of future NFL star Jonathan Tayor, who was the starting running back for the Badgers when Guerendo was a freshman. Hamstring injuries also hampered Guerendo over his first three seasons with the Badgers, then a lisfranc injury put him on the sidelines in 2021. In 2022, Guerendo found himself behind Braelon Allen, who went on to be a fourth-round selection of the New York Jets. Guerendo made the move to Louisville for the 2023 season and was able to use the opportunity to branch out his game and prove himself as an NFL prospect.

Guerendo finished the 2023 season with 810 yards and 11 touchdowns on 132 carries, with highs of 146 yards against Virginia Tech and 161 yards against USC in the Holiday Bowl. Guerendo also caught 22 passes for 234 yards.

A heck of a set of mentors

One benefit that Guerendo did get while at Wisconsin was the chance to learn from Taylor, who was more than receptive toward helping his young teammate. According to the Indianapolis Star, Taylor still stays in touch with Guerendo and has called him the fastest teammate he's ever had.

"With how athletic he is himself, obviously, hearing something from such, not only a great person, but a great player as well, getting recognition from one of the greatest, obviously feels good," Guerendo told The Star.

Guerendo will now get the chance to learn from McCaffrey, and he intends to take full advantage. Guerendo is hoping he won't get on McCaffrey's nerves in the process, but he's not planning on passing up the opportunity to ask McCaffrey anything and everything about being an NFL running back.

"Obviously he's one of the greatest backs," Guerendo told 49ers beat reporters on Saturday. "I was just telling my family I think he's probably going to get annoyed with me and how many questions I ask him. Just the amount of production he has and continues to have, and how consistent he is, his recovery plan, just all that stuff -- being able to pick a great back like that's brain is really important. That's definitely something that I'll do. So hopefully in the next few weeks he's not annoyed by me, but we'll see what happens."

Always interested

The 49ers kept their interest in their first-round pick, wide receiver Ricky Pearsall, a secret to the point where Pearsall was legitimately surprised when the team drafted him. They also didn't speak too much with their second-round pick, cornerback Renardo Green.

Things were the opposite for Guerendo. The 49ers let him know early in the process they were interested and kept in touch with him the whole way.

"Even before the opportunities post-season, they had kind of always been in contact with my agent, Joe Linta," Guerendo said Saturday. "So I already knew they were on the radar, but obviously it's a blessing to make it final."

Running backs coach Bobby Turner was particularly active in keeping in touch with Guerendo. Turner even called Guerendo in the middle of his media call with 49ers beat reporters, which he had to turn down for the time being.

"He was great about keeping in touch with me, sending me periodic texts, calling me a few times throughout the process," Guerendo said of Turner. "He's been amazing throughout this whole process (and) I'm excited to get to work with him."

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