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Fast and Furious: How Speedy Are the 49ers Running Backs?

Football is a game of inches where every second, and more specifically, every millisecond counts. This is why there is so much emphasis put on the speed of NFL players. One of the most weighted evaluations at the NFL Combine is the marquee 40-yard dash event. Prospects are evaluated on their linear speed and acceleration which can hold a heavy influence on a player's draft stock.

San Francisco 49ers general manager John Lynch joined "Good Morning Football" on Wednesday to discuss the addition of free agent running back Jerick McKinnon. Lynch went into detail on McKinnon's "undeniable" speed being added to an already athletic running back group.

"It's fun to look at our halfback room. I think the slowest guy out of the five that we have right now runs a 4.49," Lynch stated.

Now let's put speed into perspective. The average 40 time of an NFL running back is 4.59 seconds. I decided to challenge Lynch's assertion and break down the raw speed of each of the 49ers halfbacks.

Table inside Article
Player 40 Time Height Weight
Jerick McKinnon 4.41 5-9 205
Joe Williams 4.41 5-11 205
Jeremy McNichols 4.49 5-9 214
Raheem Mostert 4.34 5-10 197
Matt Breida 4.39 5-10 190

For starters, there was no exaggeration in Lynch's statement. Obviously speed alone doesn't make a superstar running back, nor is football played in a straight line. Le'Veon Bell and Kareem Hunt, two backs who clocked in at 4.60 seconds or slower in the 40, are undeniably two of the league's top talents. But speed is coveted for a reason and is often used as a tiebreaker when teams make decisions on draft day. The difference between two rushers could be determined by a mere hundredth of a second.

The 49ers have stockpiled speedy running backs who can break free in the open field or turn 4th-and-inches into a fresh set of downs all the same. All that's left to see is how Kyle Shanahan deploys his athletic chess pieces next season.