With San Francisco 49ers running back Raheem Mostert potentially on his way out of Santa Clara, California, the 49ers are having to consider a variety of possibilities.
This is something that NFL analyst MJ Acosta brought up on a recent episode of NFL Total Access, mentioning that much of the conversation surrounding the 49ers’ backfield has focused on Mostert compared to fellow running backs Jerick McKinnon and Tevin Coleman.
While an equally valid angle, Acosta brought the interesting case of RB Jeff Wilson Jr., who played a more subtle, but important role in 2019, while still mentioning how impressive Mostert was.
“We can’t forget about Jeff Wilson Jr.,” Acosta said. “Who also stepped up very well last year when he was needed by the 49ers, so schematically, they have some options there, but we know what Raheem Mostert did and it was not a fluke, he did it consistently all the way to the Super Bowl.”
Wilson’s contributions were somewhat understated, but Acosta’s comment warrants a look into what kind of contributions Wilson could make in 2020.
Jeff Wilson Jr.’s Role in the 49ers
Since joining the 49ers as an undrafted free agent in 2018, Wilson has maintained a respectable 4.0 yards per carry, but has only received 93 hand-offs in his 16 total appearances.
What this tells us is that Wilson has done a solid job with the opportunities given, but when running backs like Matt Breida, Coleman, and Mostert are also on the roster, chances can be hard to come by.
What’s especially promising about Wilson was his first real chance in 2018 and his ability to get in the endzone in 2019.
Back in Week 14 of 2018, Wilson was given a starting nod after injuries to the aforementioned trio, going for 93 yards on 23 carries, showing that the powerful North Texas alum could do it from the first snap to the last.
In 2019, Wilson displayed his nose for the endzone, scoring a total of five times, with pairs of rushing touchdowns against the Cincinnati Bengals and Pittsburgh Steelers, and a legendary walk-off TD catch against the Arizona Cardinals.
— Coach Yac 🗣 (@YacovoneRick) June 15, 2020
When it comes to the rushing touchdowns, and most of Wilson’s runs, the most encouraging thing about the 24-year-old’s running is vision and patience.
Wilson doesn’t possess absolutely unreal athletic qualities, but in the few chances he’s received, he consistently shows vision and a knack for waiting for that important moment to blast through the hole to at least ensure he’s picking up yards rather than being stood up at the line of scrimmage.
Acosta’s Additional Comments on Mostert
While Acosta brought up an interesting point, she also had more praise for Mostert’s breakout 2019 season.
Last season, the world really learned Raheem Mostert’s name and what exactly he could bring to the table. His contribution and his evolution as a 49er is remarkable. Remember, he was cut by seven other teams and was really playing special teams with the 49ers, kind of filling in here and there and jumping in when he could really contribute. Then, his number was called as you hear guys say so often and he delivered beyond what was expected.
But with those who know Mostert and have seen his work ethic, everyone I spoke to has said, ‘We’re not surprised, we knew he had that talent, we knew he could do it,’ and that’s sort of the benefit of having that depth of talent there.
Perhaps what’s most interesting about Mostert’s rise to prominence is that Wilson seems like he could be on a similar track. Consistent special teams player that does a fine job when given the chance.
However, in two seasons in the NFL, Wilson Jr. has already shown more than Mostert was able to in his first two seasons. If the 49ers decide to get what they can for Mostert and move forward with Coleman and McKinnon as the primary backs, Wilson’s opportunities should only grow in number.
Evan Reier is a sportswriter covering the San Francisco 49ers for Heavy.com and local sports for the Montana Standard in Butte, Mont. Reach out to him on Twitter at @evanreier and join our 49ers community at Heavy on 49ers on Facebook.