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49ers 2023 Roster Breakdown: Running Backs


Each week leading up to the start of training camp, will assess the team's roster as we get closer to the season. In this installment of the 49ers roster breakdown, we will take a look at the running back position, the team's two fullbacks and how the unit looks to progress in 2023.

Position Outlook

All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey impressed the Faithful as soon as he landed in San Francisco following a blockbuster trade with the Carolina Panthers midway through the 2022 season. This year, the sky is the limit for McCaffrey as he's gone through the full slate of offseason programming with the 49ers for the first time. At the start of offseason voluntary workouts, McCaffrey shared some insight on his process of transitioning to a new season.

"I just start from square one as if it's my first day, and I don't know anything, just trying to learn as much as possible," McCaffrey said. "It's nice being able to start from square one and getting right with Coach (Bobby) Turner and making sure it's not just learning the plays but learning every single detail of the positions."

McCaffrey will be backed up by third-year pro Elijah Mitchell, sophomore RBs Jordan Mason and Tyrion Davis-Price and undrafted free agents Ronald Awatt and Khalan Laborn. Before the start of the 2023 season, Pro Football Focus ranked the 49ers as the No. 1 running back unit in the NFL.

Position Breakdown

Running Backs


2022 Recap

Mitchell entered the 2022 season as the 49ers leading rusher after amassing 963 rushing yards and setting a rookie rushing record in 2021. In unfortunate circumstances, Mitchell suffered an MCL sprain in Week 1 against the Chicago Bears and was placed on the team's Injured Reserve list, leaving now Miami Dolphins running back Jeff Wilson Jr. at the top of the depth chart.

Wilson Jr. racked up 468 rushing yards and two touchdowns in San Francisco before a news-breaking mid-season trade between the 49ers and Panthers brought McCaffrey to The Bay ahead of the team's Week 7 contest against the Kansas City Chiefs. Wilson Jr. was later traded to the Dolphins in November in exchange for Miami's 2023 fifth-round draft choice.

McCaffrey became quickly acquainted with his new team and took over as the 49ers leading rusher, notching a total of 1,210 yards from scrimmage and 10 touchdowns, earning him a trip to the 2023 Pro Bowl Games along with Juszczyk. At the close of the 2022 season, San Francisco's entire running back corps recorded 2,360 rushing yards and 20 touchdowns on 504 total attempts.

Running Backs Breakdown

A running back out of UTEP, Awatt is coming off a stellar senior year where he recorded a team-high 734 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 163 rushing attempts. Throughout his time at UTEP, Awatt rushed for 1,781 yards and 11 touchdowns on 369 attempts in 44 career games and added 17 receptions for 235 yards.

In May, Awatt agreed to terms with the 49ers to become an undrafted free agent.

After being selected in the third round (93rd overall) by the 49ers in last year's draft, Davis-Price finished his rookie season with 34 rushes for 99 yards in six game appearances.

Now entering his second season with the team, Davis-Price looks to show off his speed at San Francisco's training camp and work his way into the fold.

A running back out of Marshall, Laborn appeared in 13 games during the 2022 season and registered 302 carries for 1,513 yards and 16 touchdowns along with 16 receptions for 116 yards after transferring from Florida State (2017-19). In 2019 as a junior, he appeared in 10 games and registered 63 carries for 297 yards and four touchdowns to go along with 10 receptions for 66 yards.

In May, Laborn agreed to terms with the 49ers to become an undrafted free agent.

Mason joined the 49ers last year as an undrafted free agent, made the team's initial 53-man roster and finished the season with 43 carries for 258 yards and a touchdown across 16 regular-season games with San Francisco. He began his rookie year in a special teams role and eventually made strides in the rotation of the 49ers offense, recording his longest run of 55 yards and an average of six rushing yards per attempt.

"His (potential) is unlimited," running back coach Robert Turner Jr. said. "I've seen tremendous growth from him. Mentality, maturity, in all areas of his game, and I'm still expecting a lot more out of him."

McCaffrey finished the 2022 regular season with 244 carries for 1,139 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground and another 85 catches for 741 yards and five scores through the air. In his first campaign with the 49ers, McCaffrey earned his second Pro Bowl honor and was a finalist for the AP NFL Comeback Player of the Year award.

"Christian is an outstanding individual," Turner Jr. said. "He loves the game and he wants to be the best of the best."

In 2021, Mitchell joined the 49ers in spectacular fashion, setting a franchise record for a rookie by rushing for 963 yards and doing so over just 11 games. His sophomore season was affected by injuries that kept him off the field for 12 weeks. Despite the adversity, he still managed to record 279 rushing yards and two touchdowns over five game appearances in 2022, producing 75.0-plus PFF rushing grades in each of his past two seasons when healthy.

Fullbacks Breakdown

A fullback out of Oregon State, Colletto has appeared in 43 games (5 starts) and registered 110 carries for 401 yards and 22 touchdowns as well as four receptions for 37 yards and one touchdown after spending his freshman year at Arizona Western College (2017). Colletto also spent time at quarterback and linebacker at Oregon State, completing 25 of 50 passing attempts for 254 yards and also recorded 51 tackles, two passes defended, two fumble recoveries, 1.5 tackles for loss, one interception and one fumble recovery.

In May, Colletto agreed to terms with the 49ers to become an undrafted free agent.

Juszczyk is entering his 11th season in the NFL and has recorded an impressive six-year career with the 49ers. Since joining San Francisco in 2017, Juszczyk has amassed 151 catches for 1,576 yards and 14 touchdowns through the air in addition to his 57 carries for 205 yards and five scores on the ground, earning Pro Bowl honors for every year he's played in The Bay.

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