Rarely does 49ers general manager Trent Baalke divulge the secrets to his team-building approach. However, in this week’s pre-draft meeting, Baalke had a slight slip. When talking about what he likes about his running backs, he said he’s a big believer in the “three-headed approach.”
“All three of our backs can run the full gambit of our offense, but they also bring something unique to the table, a different style,” Baalke revealed. “So it’s very difficult as a defense to see who’s out there and say, ‘OK, they’re going to do this.’ But then they also have to deal with the different running styles, and I think that creates some issues.”
The trio of Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James are perfect for what the 49ers want to do. But how long will they be together? Gore is entering the final year of his deal and will turn 30 next month; he’s the mathusala of running backs.
Hunter and James are undersized and Hunter is returning from a torn Achilles tendon. This group could break apart at any moment, which could necessitate the selection of another back in the upcoming draft. Because the need isn’t urgent, the 49ers are unlikely to look at running back until at least the second pick of the second round if then.
Here is one mid-round possibility:
Christine Michael, Texas A&M: Physically, Michael fits the big back role with his 5-10, 223-pound frame. Michael also blew away the combine with a 4.43 second time in the 40-yard dash and first place finishes among running backs in the bench press, vertical jump, broad jump, 3-cone drill and 20-yard shuttle.
He also dominated East-West Shrine Game practices and looked explosive catching passes at his Pro Day. Now the bad news, he overslept at the combine and missed two interviews with NFL teams. He failed to start with the Aggies his senior year because of his poor attitude and sloppy pass blocking.
The 49ers have been excellent in determining which players are undraftable because of charter and which players can be learn to be responsible. For example, the 49ers refused to listen to the LSU coaches who bad-mouthed defensive tackle Ricky Jean Francois. They took him with a seventh-round pick in the 2009 draft and he became a productive backup.