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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports


2021 Draft Prediction: 49ers Trade Up for a RB in Round 1 or 2

Michael Cataldo
Apr 19, 2021 at 6:30 PM


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Let's be honest, we can use a breather from debating about the No. 3 overall pick (#FieldsAt3).

Hear me out before you dismiss my prediction with "any undrafted running back can thrive in Shanahan's system". I think the 49ers may just trade up for a running back in the early rounds and there's plenty of reasons why this is a likely possibility.

1) Depth and Injury History are Concerns


There's no denying that Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. are awesome. The reality is that both running backs play extremely physical and have missed time in recent years while never handling a full season of consistent work.

We also haven't seen enough of undrafted backups JaMychal Hasty and Austin Walter so the 49ers could have a serious problem on their hands if one of Mostert/Wilson go down. We saw what happened last year when Jerick McKinnon and JaMychal Hasty were the starters.

Don't Forget: Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson Jr. are also unrestricted free agents in 2022.

2) Proven History of Trading Up for Offensive Skill Players


After last year's draft, I wrote an article to remind us once again that John Lynch trades up for offensive players Shanahan covets. John did it for C.J. Beathard, Joe Williams, Dante Pettis, and most recently Brandon Aiyuk.

The 49ers have a lot of chips to play with this year with 8 picks in total, excluding the No. 3 pick. Just last year, San Francisco swapped 1st round selections with Minnesota and threw in 4th and 5th round picks for Brandon Aiyuk.

John Lynch and Kyle Shanahan have addressed the WR and TE position frequently over the last two drafts. The front office has had success signing undrafted free agents that have panned out (Matt Breida, Jeff Wilson Jr., possibly Hasty), but it's time to add some pedigree to the most critical position group in this offense.

This team being in win-now mode can afford to sacrifice multiple picks for a game-changing running back and I expect them to do so for one of the many talented ones in the 2021 class.

  • 1st round: No. 3 (from Dolphins via Texans)
  • 2nd round: No. 43 (own pick)
  • 3rd round: No. 102 (compensatory pick)
  • 4th round: No. 117 (own pick)
  • 5th round: No. 155 (own pick)
  • 5th round: No. 172 (from Saints)
  • 5th round: No. 180 (compensatory pick)
  • 6th round: No. 194 (own pick)
  • 7th round: No. 230 (from Jets)

3) RB Class is Loaded with Pass Catchers


It's no secret that Kyle Shanahan values versatility at every position. When it comes to running backs, the ability to pass block, run routes, and catch passes out of the backfield will secure you a spot on the 49ers roster.

This year's draft is loaded with versatile backs. Yes, the 49ers may have more glaring holes elsewhere like cornerback and offensive line, but so does every team.

Draft Crush: Najee Harris

Could you imagine Najee Harris in Shanahan's offense? Harris' draft stock exploded after last year's historic run with Alabama and rightfully so. More notably, Najee tallied 425 yards on 43 receptions (nearly 10 yds/rec) in an offense with Jaylen Waddle and Devonta Smith though Waddle missed time. A running back that demands targets in an offense with two Top 15 picks speaks volumes to Harris' versatility and talent.

Najee Harris said himself that he thought the 49ers would have selected him before the trade happened.

The 49ers could trade up for him but it will likely be too late. Look for the Miami (18th), Washington (19th) or Pittsburgh (24th) to be in the running for Najee.

My Pick: Michael Carter

Though he's 5'8', Michael Carter's vision and pass-catching prowess makes him a perfect fit in San Francisco. Carter shined in the Senior Bowl scoring one TD with 8 carriers for 60 yards, and we know how much John Lynch's history with Senior Bowl standouts like Javon Kinlaw and Deebo Samuel.

Michael Carter's style of play could very well balance out Mostert and JWJ's physical brand of football, giving defenses a change of pace that can work to Shanahan's advantage.

Don't be fooled by his small frame. He is elusive, not afraid of contact, and bursts through holes without hesitation.



If Kyle Shanahan feels that another team may steal his running back draft crush, do not be surprised if he urges Lynch to make the move up like he has done many, many times.
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.


4 Comments

  • Frank
    Niners just signed Wayne Gallman to 1 yr deal...I doubt they'll trade up for any RB this draft. They could still draft one, although they've had good luck with UDFA's, too. Nice position to be in going into the draft.
    Apr 21, 2021 at 3:27 PM
    0
  • m_brockalexander
    Great call on Michael Carter. Would be the perfect 3rd down back for the Niners. Good physical and elusive runner who can also contribute as a receiver. A bargain late in round 3.
    Apr 21, 2021 at 8:52 AM
    0
  • Scott
    I think he will do something no one expected or what I am hoping is he knows Saleh is taking Fields or Lance and Niner's grab Wilson.
    Apr 20, 2021 at 5:34 AM
    0
  • Wild Bill
    Depends when they draft him. Don't see him being picked in the 2nd or third round-Najee, niners doing their due diligence in case he slides to the second or a smoke screen.
    Apr 19, 2021 at 11:32 PM
    0


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