4. Might We See a Surprise?
One week after the draft, Frank Gore will celebrate his 31st birthday. It's not likely the 49ers will be in quite the celebratory mood.
For most running backs, there's a cliff on the far side of 30. It's a dramatic drop, and the tumble from productive to ineffective straight through to oblivion is a quick one -- particularly for physical backs like Gore (although, in truth, there really aren't a lot of backs like Gore anymore).
San Francisco has gotten about as much mileage as possible out of Gore, primarily because it's been responsible in using him. Gore may feel like a workhorse back, but he's not had 300 touches in a season since 2007.
Gore may have a year or two left in his legs, but the 49ers would be wise to grab a back who can fill his busy shoes when the time comes. Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James aren't going to handle that kind of workload. And even if Marcus Lattimore is healthy enough to be effective, it'd be foolhardy to give him more than a dozen touches a game.
A big, bruising back is a luxury that San Francisco can afford, almost exclusively. Most teams aren't considering drafting a back in the first two rounds. That means the 49ers likely could have their pick with either of their second-round picks. Jeremy Hill is my top-rated running back, and I have him going to the Dolphins at No. 50 in my latest mock draft. Carlos Hyde is even more in the Gore mold, a north-south battering ram of a back. Either Hill or Hyde should be available at No. 56.