In its ranking of every NFL team’s top running back, NFL.com predicts Tevin Coleman will emerge as the 49ers’ No. 1 – but ranks him 28th among lead backs.
For the Niners, it’s a mixed and possibly misleading message.
Why? Because San Francisco isn’t going to use Coleman as a workhorse running back. The 49ers won’t be riding Coleman the way the Giants give the ball to Saquon Barkley over and over, or the way the Cowboys (Ezekiel Elliott), Jets (Le’Veon Bell) or Saints (Alvin Kamara) will depend so much on just one primary ball carrier.
So, while Coleman isn’t likely to have huge numbers in 2019, they’re likely to be excellent in their own way – as part of a group.
As former NFL running back Maurice Jones-Drew writes for NFL.com, "There are just too many mouths to feed for Coleman to be ranked higher."
That’s because Coleman is expected to be part of a committee of backs that can be used to advantage in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Coleman, Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida and fullback Kyle Jusczcyk each is versatile as a running back, receiver and blocker. Expect to see the four shuffle in and out of the lineup depending on down and situation. Raheem Mostert, a special teams ace, also could be part of the mix.
In fact, last month, Christian D’Andrea of SB Nation ranked the 49ers as having the No. 1 running back group in the NFL.
D’Andrea calls the group "an elegant ground support system" for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo that "can gash defenses in several different ways." He refers to Breida as a gazelle, McKinnon as a third-down receiving star and Coleman as a player who can "add some extra power" to the backfield.
"Coleman is a player … Shanahan knows how to deploy after pairing with him early in his career as the Falcons’ offensive coordinator. He’s also important depth behind Breida and McKinnon, each of whom have dealt with major injuries (recently).
"Juszczyk adds the cherry atop the sundae with his ability to block and serve as a safety valve in the passing game. This year’s 49ers team is loaded with ways to carve you up out of the backfield, and that’ll be a boon for a team that’s still light on top-end wide receivers."
The 49ers recently concluded a full-team minicamp and will report for training camp in mid July.