NFL Exec Hints at Potential 49ers RB Move: ‘Won’t Have Much Choice’

Jeff Wilson Jr. 49ers

Getty San Francisco 49ers running back Jeff Wilson Jr.

Two weeks into the 2022 NFL season, much clarity has already emerged about who has a legitimate chance to make it to Glendale, Arizona, on Super Bowl Sunday, while several teams are trying to distinguish either contenders or pretenders.

With that, Heavy’s football mailbag series continues on Friday, September 23 — hosted by Heavy’s NFL insider Matt Lombardo — to answer questions about your favorite team(s) heading into Week 3.

San Francisco 49ers

Do you see a scenario where the 49ers may need to add one more RB given their offensive philosophy? Or do you believe they’ll settle on (Tevin) Coleman and (Marlon) Mack?

The San Francisco 49ers‘ offense is going to need to evolve, especially after losing quarterback Trey Lance — and his mobility to tuck and run on any given snap — for the season due to a fractured ankle.

Making it even more challenging for the 49ers, running back Elijah Mitchell continues to be snakebitten by injuries and is expected to miss two months or more after spraining his MCL.

So, where do the Niners go from here, after losing Mitchell and signing running back Tevin Coleman to the practice squad?

“It sure sounds like they’re going to roll with who they have on their roster,” an NFC executive told Heavy. “To at least see what happens, for now. If things don’t go right for them right away, they’ll have to start looking outside. They won’t have much choice.”

Rolling with what’s currently on the roster likely means a heavier dose of wide receiver Deebo Samuel, whose 105 rushing yards are one off from Jeff Wilson’s team high. I’d expect some form of a backfield trio of Wilson, Marlon Mack and Coleman.

Wilson appears plenty competent, averaging 3.9 yards per carry with two explosive runs of 10-plus yards.

Perhaps the biggest problem on the horizon for San Francisco is where the 49ers go if their stable of backs underperforms.

The free agent market is rather barren, led by the likes of journeymen Devontae Booker, Devonta Freeman and David Johnson, who at this stage offer upside as little more than rotational players.

Unless catastrophe strikes, expect the 49ers’ rushing attack to look similar to how it has in the past with Jimmy Garoppolo behind center: led by Samuel (at least until Mitchell returns) with Wilson, Mack and Coleman (whoever has the hot hand) chipping in.

Detroit Lions

Is it possible that the Lions are good? Played Eagles tough, beat Washington. They’ve got a decent shot against Minnesota …

Led by young talent seemingly blossoming before our eyes, the Detroit Lions (1-1) are among the NFL’s biggest surprises.

At least one executive doesn’t believe it’s a fluke that Dan Campbell’s team is off to a fast start.

“I think they have a real chance to contend this year,” an NFL general manager told Heavy. “Just look at how they’ve started. They’re playing really well.”

Detroit certainly has been getting significant contributions from some of the most important players on the roster, taking the Philadelphia Eagles to the brink in Week 1 and taking down the Washington Commanders in Week 2.

Quarterback Jared Goff is playing some of the best football of his career, and his six touchdowns are one short of tying for the league lead. Second-year wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown is cementing his status as one of the NFL’s breakout stars. Plus, running back D’Andre Swift enters Sunday as the NFL’s fourth-leading rusher, with 200 yards on the ground.

Meanwhile, Aidan Hutchinson is proving every bit worthy of the No. 2 overall pick in the 2022 draft. The former Michigan star’s 3.0 sacks rank fourth in the NFL.

No longer are the Lions a pushover in what is seemingly a wide-open NFC North.

Armed with the third-youngest roster in the league (including four players chosen in the top 10 over the past four years), it might be time to start taking the Lions seriously.

As the world got a glimpse of the Lions during HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” Campbell has relentlessly aimed to establish a consistently competitive culture in Detroit. After two weeks, the Lions’ talent appears to be rising to meet the competitiveness that embodies the personality of its coach.

New York Giants

Assuming NYG finish middle of pack & out of race to draft a top-tier QB, what’s your strategy?

1) Sign Jones or another QB to a bridge deal while looking for a long-term solution? 2) Hope Lamar Jackson reaches free agency & bid aggressively? 3) Draft a QB project in round 1?

The New York Giants, after deciding to decline Daniel Jones’ fifth-year option, risk finding themselves in no man’s land at quarterback, especially if the momentum from a 2-0 start holds.

Jones has been efficient, if underwhelming, completing 70.9% of his passes for 364 yards with 3 touchdowns to 1 interception while failing to surpass 200 passing yards in either start and leading an offense that currently ranks 21st in the league. New York has also been largely buoyed by Saquon Barkley rushing for a league-high 236 yards through two games.

Fortunately, if Jones fails to play his way into a season that puts him alongside the top 10 or so quarterbacks in the NFL, this draft class is loaded at quarterback.

One NFL executive suggests there could be as many as seven passers with a first-round grade in 2023.

Taking a quarterback in Round 1 — barring Jones suddenly surging through the final 15 games of the season — seems like the most prudent and most likely outcome.

New York also has steadfastly protected next offseason’s cap space, and sources around the league suggest that keeping as much of the Giants’ anticipated $55.8 million in cap space allocated for the offseason, is a driving force behind personnel decisions this season.

So, be it spending flexibility to be a leading destination for the top veterans available, the cap space to hedge and use the franchise tag on Jones, or extend him if he plays his way into a new deal, the Giants have plenty of options.

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