The 49ers don’t need to change their running back room to remain competitive in the 2024 season. However, bolstering the position would make sense in this year’s draft both for short-term depth and potential long-term starting options for the post-Christian McCaffrey era.

It’s clear San Francisco won’t need to pick a RB early. In fact, there may be a fan revolt if they do given their lack of success with RBs selected before the sixth round under head coach Kyle Shanahan. One late-round prospect who could make sense for them is Memphis’ Blake Watson, who had a virtual meeting with San Francisco according to the Draft Network’s Justin Melo.

Watson, 24, measured in at 5-9, 200 pounds at his Pro Day after not being invited to the NFL combine. He also clocked a 4.40 40-yard dash, which is a really good number given how hard-nosed he runs. His speed doesn’t pop on tape, but he runs well through contact and doesn’t often get knocked backwards thanks to a compact frame.

It took Watson awhile to get going in college. He redshirted his first year at Old Dominion, then had a relatively unproductive second year before the pandemic ended his 2020 season before it could start. In 2021 he broke out for ODU with 1,112 yards and 8 touchdowns on 215 carries. The following year he backed it up with 916 yards and five touchdowns on 158 attempts.

The 2022 season was particularly intriguing though because he caught 33 passes for 314 yards and two touchdowns. That pass-catching element stuck with him last year after he transferred to Memphis. With the Tigers he posted 192 carries, a career-best 1,152 yards and 14 touchdowns on the ground, while also tacking on 53 receptions for 480 yards and three scores through the air.

Without the pass-catching, Watson probably isn’t a prospect the 49ers are looking very closely at. However, if he can prove to be a reliable NFL pass catcher it could make him extremely valuable as a late-round pick.

There are plenty of question marks about whether Watson’s athleticism can hold up in the NFL. His late breakout at a small school like Old Dominion is also a pretty significant cause for concern.

The 49ers have done a nice job identifying talented backs late on Day 3 or as undrafted free agents. If they like Watson enough to make him a sixth or seventh-round choice, it’s easy to see how he could carve out a role in their offense.

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