The 49ers came out of the 2021 NFL Draft set up well for the future at running back.
The 49ers traded two fourth-round picks to move up for Ohio State running back Trey Sermon in the third round. Then, they used a sixth-round pick on Elijah Mitchell of Louisiana, who projects well as a third-down back.
Even before the addition of those two youngsters, the 49ers made an under-the-radar free-agent acquisition that gives them a lot of versatility for the upcoming season.
Wayne Gallman, who led the New York Giants in rushing last season, signed a one-year contract with the 49ers.
So, now, the 49ers have Sermon, Mitchell and Gallman, along with Raheem Mostert, JaMycal Hasty and Jeff Wilson Jr., who should be available in the middle of the season after undergoing offseason surgery to repair torn cartilage in his knee.
Of course, there’s simply not enough room on the team for all of those players.
The 49ers’ depth at running back creates an intriguing possibility for the 49ers.
Four different running backs have led the 49ers in rushing in the four seasons since Kyle Shanahan became head coach. This could easily be a fifth straight season in which someone different emerges as the team's top running back.
And if the 49ers do not take another hit before the start of the regular season, it could prompt general manager John Lynch to deal from a position of strength.
Sermon and Mitchell will certainly not be traded because the 49ers will have both of those players under contract for the next four seasons.
Gallman does not have any trade value. After all, he signed a low-level, one-year contract with the 49ers when he was an unrestricted free agent and could have signed with any team.
Mostert, however, could be an attractive pickup for a lot of teams heading into the regular season -- but only if the 49ers believe they have enough talented backs to manage without him.
Mostert is scheduled to earn $3.225 million for the 2021 season. He enters the final year of his contract. Mostert broke out with the team in 2019 when he led the 49ers with 772 yards rushing with eight touchdowns. He saved his best for the NFC Championship Game, when he gained a club-record 220 yards and four touchdowns as the 49ers pummeled the Green Bay Packers.
Whether there will be a trade market for a running back in that two-week period between the end of the preseason and the start of the regular season remains to be seen.
But who wouldn’t want a dynamic running back who has averaged 5.7 yards (regular season and playoffs) since first touching the ball for the 49ers late in the 2016 season?
Mostert is the 49ers’ best player whom, conceivably, they could deal in order to create more draft capital for the future.
The depth they created at running back this offseason gives them that kind of flexibility.