What's Going to Happen in the San Francisco Backfield?

The Footballguys staff offers thoughts on how the San Francisco backfield will shake out

A year ago, Jerick McKinnon was a fantasy darling and showing up in the second round of a lot of drafts. After he was lost in the preseason, Matt Breida struggled to stay healthy but turned in good numbers alongside the ancient Alfred Morris. Oh, and Kyle Juszczyk seemed to get 2.5 targets every week.

This season, it seems that the newly-signed Tevin Coleman has been anointed the 49ers' primary back. Is that so? And if it is, just how primary is primary? What is McKinnon's role? What is Breida's? Will we see anything from the youngsters Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson? Oh, and will Juszczyk continue to get 2.5 targets every week?

Andy Hicks

The San Francisco backfield is fascinating heading into 2019. Starting at the bottom first and it is clear that Jeff Wilson and Raheem Mostert will have a battle on their hands to make the final roster. That said they were admirable in the way they filled in last year and should injury befall one of the guys higher in the pecking order they may still have a team role. Kyle Juszczyk has been remarkably consistent in both Baltimore and San Francisco with 40-50 targets a season and averaging around the mid 30 receptions for the last four years. It would be hard to argue for more or less in 2019.

Getting to the heart of the battle, all of Matt Breida, Tevin Coleman and Jerick McKinnon could have a convincing argument made in their favor. Breida, it’s fair to say has overachieved in his career to date, but his constant injuries and his size do him no favors for reliability. His ADP reflects his current value and it is hard to see him getting a substantial role ahead of McKinnon or Coleman.

Jerick McKinnon was pigeonholed for a significant role in 2018 and the fact they signed Tevin Coleman should point to where he sits for 2019. Another advantage for Coleman is the fact he worked with Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta. When in doubt, we should always follow the money and the blind fact is that San Francisco can get rid of both McKinnon and Coleman with a minor cap hit, at any time. We also must be aware that it could be a true job share all year, with a horses for courses approach or simply a team role to limit the workload on any of the backs. All are undersized from a traditional perspective. If I had to rank the pecking order as to which order they finish in it would be Coleman, then McKinnon and Breida at the tail of the three backs.

Jason Wood

It borders on lazy analysis, but this strikes me as a situation that will work itself out via the injury list. I suspect whoever is healthy in a given week will be a viable play in most fantasy leagues. In those rare instances when both McKinnon and Coleman are healthy, the 49ers will have a thriving ground game but it'll be maddening as a fantasy manager to try to get it right.

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