The 49ers have a handful of needs to address in free agency and the NFL draft, including some quality but affordable depth at the running back position.
According to Justin Melo of The Draft Network, they are already taking action and were one of five teams to meet virtually with Oregon State running back Jermar Jefferson. The other teams were the New England Patriots, Green Bay Packers, Indianapolis Colts, and New York Jets.
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Jermar Jefferson’s Scouting Report
Jefferson, a California native, averaged 6.5 yards per carry for the Beavers in 2020 while rushing for 858 yards and seven touchdowns through six games which earned him first-team All-Pac-12 honors.
As a freshman in 2018, Jefferson 12 rushed for 1,380 yards and reeled in 12 touchdowns. Following his outstanding performance, Jefferson was named the Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year.
With consistent production in his Oregon State career, Jefferson looks to be that “jack of all trades, master of none” running back prospect. Though there aren’t many glaring concerns or holes for Jefferson projecting to the next level, he doesn’t have a niche that will make him a valuable asset. He was able to put himself on the radar this year with his outstanding performance against Oregon where he broke out for 226 rushing yards and two touchdowns. With the ability to find open space and possessing plus vision, Jefferson is a safe, stable option at the position. There are questions about what he does aside from what the offensive line and scheme give him. His best attribute that showcases the plays he can make on his own are breaking tackles from secondary defenders in the open field to turning a first down into a touchdown. Though his athleticism meets the requisite threshold for NFL running backs, Jefferson’s mediocre athletic profile hinders his projection. He doesn’t project to being a workhorse in the NFL, and his best shot at landing a spot on an active roster for years is to find a niche as a change-of-pace back. Jefferson has shown the ability to catch the ball and works well in space, so continuing to develop that part of his game brings him his best opportunity to find a career in the NFL. Jefferson’s battle with foot and ankle injuries in his collegiate career only further steepens the hill he must climb to play meaningful years at the next level.
The Niners Haven’t Draft a Running Back Since 2017
The last time the 49ers added to their backfield with the draft was in 2017 when they took Utah’s Joe Williams in the fourth round, which didn’t work out in the favor.
The Niners currently have a quality backfield duo in Jeff Wilson and Raheem Mostert, but with injury galore in 2020, they were forced to dig deep into their depth chart which made it clear that they lacked talent at the position.
A fresh, young face in the backfield lineup could be game-changing and it would make more sense to draft one than struggle to find a reliable one in free agency.
The Niners won’t be using their first-round pick on one, but look for them to build their backfield’s future in a later round.
Watch Jefferson’s highlights from 2020 below.