49ers Analysis

Why 49ers' RB room can reach sky-high potential in 2023

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The 49ers' run game has been solid since coach Kyle Shanahan arrived in Santa Clara, but the 2023 NFL season has the potential to be this regime’s best yet.

After having a different rushing leader for six consecutive seasons, veteran back Christian McCaffrey is set to be the first back-to-back leading rushing for the first time since Carlos Hyde held that title from 2015-2017.

San Francisco's leading rushers since 2017:

2022: Christian McCaffrey
2021: Elijah Mitchell
2020: Jeff Wilson Jr.
2019: Raheem Mostert
2018: Matt Breida
2017: Carlos Hyde

McCaffrey already was in mid-season form during organized team activities and mandatory minicamp earlier this spring, running with confidence and power. Having a full offseason with Shanahan’s playbook will set the All-Pro up for success come Week 1.

Shanahan is known for his run-first offense, but that could even be more prevalent with a new right tackle after Mike McGlinchey signed with the Denver Broncos this offseason.

Colton McKivitz likely is the replacement for McGlinchey. To reduce the pressure on the West Virginia product in pass protection, the 49ers could become more run-based than they have in the past and McCaffrey will be a key element.

The First Team All-Pro also could become the first 1,000-yard rusher for the 49ers since Frank Gore did so in four consecutive seasons from 2011-2014. McCaffrey did register 1,139 yards in 2022, but only 746 of those were with the 49ers.

McCaffrey will not need to do it all on his own, as he will be joined by a healthy Elijah Mitchell who is set to head into training camp at full speed. In his rookie season, Mitchell registered 963 yards in only 11 appearances, but his sophomore showing was hampered by nagging knee issues.

In 2022, Mitchell only was on the field for five games — one as a starter, registering 45 carries for 279 yards and two touchdowns.

RELATED: Three reasons 49ers' offense will be more aggressive in 2023

Second-year back Jordan Mason also will have a shot to make more of an impact in the run game. The special teams standout recorded 43 attempts for 258 yards and one touchdown as a rookie. Mason will be looking to increase his usage from 82 offensive snaps in 2022 and 246 special team plays.

Ty Davis-Price, also a second-year back, rounds out the group. Similar to Mason, Davis-Price is looking to make more of an impact in his sophomore season. The third-round draft pick (No. 93 overall) appeared in six games in his rookie campaign, carrying the ball 34 times for 99 yards.

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