The 49ers’ top two running backs are similar in size and style.
Jerick McKinnon (5-foot-9, 205 pounds) is the 49ers’ new top running back, as Kyle Shanahan pinpointed him in free agency as an upgrade over Carlos Hyde for his ability to make more plays on his own. Matt Breida (5-10, 190) remains as the No. 2 running back.
What the 49ers lack is a traditional bigger, short-yardage back. And Shanahan said he does not expect fullback Kyle Juszczyk to fill that role.
“Juice is a threat with the ball in his hands,” Shanahan said last week at the NFL owners meetings in Orlando, Florida, as discussed on The 49ers Insider Podcast. “But Juice isn’t a running back. You’re not going to put him back there and hand it to him when they know he’s getting the ball.”
Juszczyk is likely to be a bigger factor with the ball in his hands in 2018, as Shanahan looks to exploit favorable matchups. Last season, he caught 33 passes. Of his 315 receiving yards, 195 came over the final five weeks with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback.
“When you get to third down, you look for matchups,” Shanahan said. “It’s not always the receivers on the outside. Sometime it’s the slot receiver. Sometimes it’s the running back running the same routes from the backfield that Trent Taylor runs from the slot or (tight end George) Kittle runs from just off the tackle. They’re all similar routes. It’s what’s your better matchup.”
Shanahan said the 49ers will look to add a bigger running back in the draft to join McKinnon, Breida, Joe Williams, Raheem Mostert and others.
“We’ll continue to look in the draft, and we’ll always look to add running backs,” Shanahan said. “When it comes to a big bruiser for the goal line, no one is just running over guys unblocked, either. You need to find open holes and be a good running back.”