Throughout the 2013 NFL Draft, the 49ers drafted for the 2014 season and beyond at the running back position. They selected Marcus Lattimore with their fourth-round compensatory draft pick, paving the way for him in the near future.
Besides Lattimore, Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, LaMichael James and Jewel Hampton are under contract for next season. Special teams player and part time FB/RB Anthony Dixon will be an unrestricted free agent in the offseason and it's most likely that the team will let him walk.
Here is a rundown of the 49ers running backs that will be on the team in 2014:
Gore will be entering his contract year in 2014 and he will be 31 years old in May. While he came off a respectable 1,128 yard season with nine touchdowns, the 49ers will most likely use next season as a transition year. The 49ers running back will be entering his 10th season and should receive less carries than years in the past with others on the depth chart.
Hunter had 78 carries for 358 rushing yards last season in a part-time role behind Gore. The 49ers backup RB was used mostly on outside runs as he provided a few breathers for the incumbent starter.
James is primarily a kickoff and punt returner who saw limited action on offense this year. He had only 12 carries in the regular season for 59 yards on the ground. In his rookie season, he showed promise in the NFC Championship game when he scored his only touchdown in his NFL career against the Atlanta Falcons. He is one of two players remaining on the 49ers from the 2012 draft class.
Lattimore will be entering the 2014 season with high expectations after 2013 was his "medical redshirt" season as he recovered from two torn ligaments. He spent three weeks practicing with the team in a brief window while on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list before going on the injured reserve.
While there are durability concerns as he has suffered two long term injuries in college, the running back out of South Carolina is capable of being a No. 1 running back. He possesses all the skills from quickness to vision in order to succeed at the next level. Lattimore is a slippery running back who can be effective between the tackles as well as being a good blocker. If Lattimore impresses coaches in OTAs and training camp, it would not be surprising if the 49ers rotate Gore, Hunter and Lattimore with a balanced number of carries next season.
Hampton was an undrafted free agent in 2012 who spent most of his rookie season on the PUP before being promoted to the 53-man roster where he was inactive in all games. He spent last offseason with the 49ers as he earned himself a spot on the practice squad.