Salvon Ahmed signed a three-year undrafted free agent contract with the San Francisco 49ers on Friday, making the University of Washington running back the latest addition to the team’s backfield. Ahmed is the 10th undrafted free agent signing for San Francisco this offseason, and the third running back signed after Baylor’s JaMychal Hasty and Fresno State RB Josh Hokit.
The three signings have come in shortly after the Niners traded veteran RB Matt Breida to Miami for the Dolphins’ fifth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, which San Francisco used to select offensive tackle Colton McKivitz from West Virginia.
The departure of Breida, who led the 49ers in rushing in the 2018 season with 844 yards, creates space for a new face to join Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman and Jeff Wilson in the backfield.
With the addition of wide receiver Deebo Samuel’s rushing attempts, the number of touches available is limited, but there is potential for one of Ahmed, Hasty or Hokit to make the final roster. Let’s break down the 49ers’ new rushing trio.
Salvon Ahmed, University of Washington
There’s a lot to like about Ahmed. After making a mark behind standout Huskies RB Myles Gaskin as a freshman with 388 rushing yards, three touchdowns and 6.4 yards per attempt, the Kirkland, Washington native got his first starts as a sophomore before becoming Washington’s feature back in 2019.
Ahmed tallied 1,020 yards rushing yards this past season, reached the endzone 11 times, and still produced an impressive 5.4 yards per carry despite extra carries and attention, prompting him to declare for the draft.
“It was definitely something that I’ve been thinking about since I got to college,’’ Ahmed told the Seattle Times. “Everyone’s dream is to leave after three years, but for me I had goals I wanted to accomplish. I definitely wanted to be a 1,000-yard rusher, I wanted to have 10-plus touchdowns, I wanted to have explosive plays, and if I didn’t have those things I wasn’t going to leave and I was fortunate enough to mark off every single one of those goals. And I felt physically and mentally on top of that that I was ready to be a pro.’’
While Ahmed may have felt ready, his post-declaration process has been rocky. After running a 4.32 40-yard dash at Washington’s Husky Combine in 2019, Ahmed clocked in times of 4.62 and 4.67 at the 2020 NFL Combine.
However, it’s highly unlikely that Ahmed’s in-game speed will reflect his combine time. The RB’s most notable trait in college has been quickness, and if he can improve on his promising vision and elusiveness seen in the video below, Ahmed ought to have the best shot out of this group to make the final cut.
JaMychal Hasty, Baylor
Hasty is an interesting contrast to Ahmed. While Ahmed has a significantly better resume out of college and is likely to be more consistent at the next level, Hasty has more experience but feels like he could be more electric than his UDFA counterparts.
Playing in then-Baylor head coach Matt Rhule’s offense, Hasty brought in 25-plus receptions in each of the past three seasons, and consistently split rushing responsibilities in an offense that was already pass-heavy but did crack 800 total yards from scrimmage this past season.
Hasty’s quick cuts and secure hands make him a worthwhile shot in the current age of NFL offense, but his ability to produce consistently in the passing game hasn’t translated to huge plays, as Hasty has only broken off three touches for a 50-yard gain or better.
The added factor of Hasty being an average-at-best pass-blocker makes his specialties slightly less valuable, but Hasty still has a chance to make the roster if head coach Kyle Shanahan and company think the five-year college product has more potential in the 49ers offensive scheme than Ahmed.
Josh Hokit, Fresno State
When it comes to varying skill sets, Hokit’s arsenal is definitely the most unique of this group.
Hokit initially attended Fresno due to the possibility of the Bulldogs’ wrestling program returning, which was Hokit’s first sport coming out of high school. However, after walking-on to the Fresno football team whilst waiting for wrestling, the Wasco, Calif. product became an important part of the Bulldogs’ team in his first year on the roster.
In the seasons since, Hokit has become a focal point of both the wrestling and football program, which culminated in his 10 touchdown season in 2019, which included nine rushing touchdowns on just 287 total rushing yards.
There’s no question that Hokit is a bruiser who excels at winning in small-yardage situations, and the two-sport athlete seems like the perfect example of a goal-line, third-down situational back that you can count on to get a yard or two.
While Breida’s strongest skill was in a similar vein, it could be argued that short-yardage is also Coleman’s greatest strength, and the former Atlanta Falcon has also shown that he is capable of more than short-yardage.
If the Niners see enough blocking prowess and strength from Hokit, there could be a use for him. However, San Francisco isn’t in dying need of a brute RB right now, so it could be tough for Hokit to find a place on the roster, although a practice squad spot would make sense.
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, MT. Reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier and follow Heavy on 49ers on Facebook!