Being stuck at 3-3 means the San Francisco 49ers should be active players before the NFL’s trade deadline on November 1. There’s more than one position in need on a roster decimated by injuries, with defensive line, offensive tackle, safety and running back the areas of most concern.
The latter position is one where the Niners have been content to rotate players in and out under head coach Kyle Shanahan. His system has a well-earned reputation for turning unheralded runners into stars, but the 49ers would surely be better off with a genuine Pro-Bowl talent in the backfield.
It’s something general manager John Lynch could acquire if he’s prepared to give up early on one of the team’s top 2022 draft picks. That’s the trade scenario put forward by one NFL writer, who has detailed a package involving a rookie runner, along with a pair of draft choices over the next two years.
49ers Swap Potential and Draft Capital for All-Pro
Christian McCaffrey is the ultimate price for this loaded trade package, according to Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports. He sends the Carolina Panthers a fourth-round pick in 2023, a second-rounder the next year and Tyrion Davis-Price to make the deal happen.
It’s a lot to give up, but Benjamin thinks the 49ers would get more in return thanks to McCaffrey’s versatile skill set: “Kyle Shanahan can make most anyone thrive in his run-heavy system, but McCaffrey is of a different breed — so proven as a pass catcher that he’d give Jimmy Garoppolo (and/or Trey Lance down the road) an every-down safety valve, not to mention another Swiss Army Knife alongside Deebo Samuel. It wouldn’t be an easy pill to swallow for Panthers fans, but Carolina’s long-term needs are more important, and two picks plus a third-round rookie for a pricey, injury-prone RB is reasonable value.”
There’s no denying McCaffrey would add a different dimension to Shanahan’s offense as a prolific receiver out of the backfield. Run CMC has 390 receptions to his credit since entering the league in 2017.
McCaffrey’s comfort in the passing game is hardly a surprise given his pedigree. His father, Ed McCaffrey, won three Super Bowls as a wide receiver in the 1990s. Father and son may welcome the idea of a return to San Francisco, where Ed won the first of his titles with the 49ers in 1994, before he lifted the Lombardi Trophy twice more with the Denver Broncos.
Putting the younger McCaffrey into his offense would help Shanahan freshen up a passing game that’s become stale this season. Defenses know to key on wideout Deebo Samuel and tight end George Kittle, but opponents would have a harder time taking away the Niners’ best weapons with McCaffrey in the same lineup.
It would also be tougher to stop a ground game led by a two-time 1,000-yard runner. McCaffrey’s dual-threat brilliance is bettered only by a Hall of Famer, per NFL on CBS:
McCaffrey offers game-changing potential for the 49ers’ offense. That has to be worth giving up Davis-Price and two draft picks, despite the injury concerns with McCaffrey.
49ers Should Take the Risk and Sacrifice a 3rd-Round Pick
Davis-Price was expected to make the lead-back role his own after being drafted in the third round, only for calf and ankle injuries to scupper the plan. His absence has been a blow for the Niners because the former LSU standout offered game-breaking speed and formidable finishing power.
Those qualities helped Davis-Price rush for 1,003 yards and average 4.8 yards per carry during his final year in Baton Rouge. He showcased a flair for the big play on the ground several times in 2021, particularly against Florida, per PFF College:
These are the kind of gains Shanahan’s zone-stretch rushing scheme manufactures for fun, but the 49ers haven’t seen gains of this type from Davis-Price. Instead, he mustered just 33 yards on 14 carries, averaging 2.4 per rush, in his only featured action against the Seattle Seahawks in Week 2.
Injuries haven’t helped Davis-Price’s case, and McCaffrey knows all about those setbacks. The 26-year-old lost 13 games to ankle, shoulder and glute injuries in 2020, before hamstring and ankle problems ended his ’21 campaign after only seven games.
It’s a troubling record, but the Niners needn’t be too worried. Not when McCaffrey didn’t miss a game his first three years in the pros, despite handling one of the heaviest workloads at his position.
The Panthers know McCaffrey’s value on the field, but the franchise is in full rebuilding mode at 1-5 and having already fired head coach Matt Rhule and defensive coordinator Phil Snow. Any future draft capital and players would surely be welcomed by the next regime.
That’s why McCaffrey’s name is a hot topic in trade discussions, even though he’s trying to avoid the noise, per Joe Person of The Athletic:
The 49ers could make the right kind of noise trading for McCaffrey. Unlike the Panthers, Shanahan’s team isn’t stuck in transition.
Instead, this group is playing in a dwindling Super Bowl window, and those championship chances would only be helped by adding a Pro-Bowl talent.