The 49ers go into 2020 with a nice group of running backs. It’s a deep, versatile corps that includes Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, Jerick McKinnon and Jeffery Wilson.
But the 49ers added a couple of undrafted rookies that could break on to the roster, with JaMycal Hasty of Baylor getting the most attention.
Hasty, at 5-foot-8, is a quick playmaker who could follow in the footsteps of other undrafted smallish 49ers running backs such as Mostert and Matt Breida.
But another running back, Salvon Ahmed, could be a long-shot candidate.
Ahmed was a highly recruited high school standout from the Pacific Northwest who went to the University of Washington but didn’t achieve as much of a starring role for the Huskies as anticipated.
The 5-foot-11, 197-pounder produced a 1,020-yard rushing season in 2019 as a junior, but carried for just 608 yards in 2018 and 388 as a freshman in 2017. But his career average of 5.7 yards per carry was impressive and he was ranked among the top undrafted free agents in the NFL, according to former NFL executive Gil Brandt (a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame), writing for NFL.com.
Ahmed has fine speed and quickness, but was criticized in college for having a lack of vision that limits his ability to find holes. He’s also been criticized for being too hesitant.
However, Maverick Pallack of Sports Illustrated wrote that when Ahmed does get into the open, “he is deadly.”
“His hesitation move, acceleration and low-to-the-ground running style make him hard to touch,” wrote Pallack. “He eclipsed 100 yards in a game four times in 2019 and demonstrated his explosiveness with an 89-yard run against USC.”
In that game against the Trojans, Ahmed rushed 17 times for 153 yards. His biggest game came against Oregon State, when he carried 25 times for 174 yards and two touchdowns.
Pallack suggested, too, that Ahmed could be in the mix to make the 49ers’ roster because of his versatile special-teams skills. That’s how Mostert made the Niners roster, and then blossomed into a running back by impressing coaches in practice.
Lance Zierlein of NFL.com this spring projected Ahmed to be drafted in the sixth round, noting his quickness and speed, but wrote he “faces an uphill battle” to make an NFL roster because he must be more decisive as a ball carrier.
If Ahmed can refine that skill and adapt this summer, he could work himself into the running back rotation.