News broke Wednesday night that long-time special teamer and 2019 breakout star Raheem Mostert has requested a trade from the San Francisco 49ers. He’s currently on the books at the Niners for only $2.575 million this year and $2.875 million next year. Compared to the other 49er running backs, Mostert is the lowest-paid runner. It’s clear then Mostert is eager to cash in on his stellar end to the 2019/20 season and secure a modest, yet life-changing for Mostert, $4 million a year contract.
After shining on special teams as one of the NFL‘s best gunners, injuries and hard work earned Mostert a handful of snaps towards the end of the season last year. Mostert did what every fringe NFL player hopes to do and took the most of the opportunity afforded to him. Mostert finished the 2019/20 campaign leading the 49ers running back room in rushing yards (772), touchdowns (8) and Y/A (5.6). Mostert was also tied first with Tevin Coleman for rushing attempts with 137.
From viewing the statistics within the 49er running back room, it’s pretty clear that despite the Shanahan staple of ‘running back by committee’ Mostert was the 49ers best and number one rusher last season. Although Mostert impressed in the regular season last year, most fans of the NFL remember Mostert’s earth-shattering 220 yards, 4 TD performance in the NFC Championship Game against the Packers this past January.
If Mostert is to be traded and earn a respectable payday, it’s because of that performance. And with good reason. Mostert ended up finishing the NFC Championship Game by smashing the 49er single-game rushing record. Let’s take a look at what makes Mostert such an intriguing talent by breaking down his best plays in his breakout game.
Below we see Mostert’s first of four touchdowns. This play really conveys the melding of Shanahan’s run scheming and Mostert’s ability as a runner. It’s 3rd & 8 – an obvious passing down. As a result, seven Packer defenders are at the line of scrimmage, leaving space in behind them for the Niners to exploit. The 49ers are in a 1×3 with Kittle lined up opposite a CB at the bottom of the screen and three 49er WRs in a bunch at the top of the screen. A combination of the Packers blitzing, as well as being shifted towards the bunch at the top of the screen leaves acres of space for Mostert to run into.
The ball is snapped. #68 Mike Person pulls left, leaving the Packers defensive end with a clean shot at Mostert. However, due to the down and distance, as well as Shanahan’s tendency to call play-action, #50 keys in on Garoppolo. After that, Mostert breaks the arm tackle from R. Preston #91 and displays his pure running ability; turning the corner, outpacing the safety and scoring the go-ahead touchdown. The perfect synergy between play-caller and runner.
Next, we’ll look at a play that perhaps best explains why Mostert proved to be the 49ers top HB last year and shows off Mostert’s running style. It’s 1st & 10 and the Niners are in I – Form. Shanahan calls a toss play to exploit the narrow 3-4 front of the Packers defence.
Mostert receives the ball and does a great job of following his blocker, #44 Kyle ‘Juice’ Juszczyk. Mostert hits the hole hard with the tenacity of a downhill thumper while maintaining the balance and fluidity of a ballerina. As a result, Mostert breaks two tackles and is brought down for a 34 yard gain. The lethal blend of explosive power and elusive composure shown here is what led Mostert to be the second-best runner in the NFL being Derrick Henry down the stretch last year.
The third and final highlight we’ll look at is Mostert’s fourth and final touchdown from the game. Once again the 49ers are in I-Form with Mostert following the best full-back in the league, Kyle Juszczyk.
Once the ball is snapped, Green Bay does an okay job at crashing down and preventing Mostert from cutting the run back inside – something Mostert excels at. However, Mostert plays this like a veteran. He stays poised, keeps his eyes downfield, displays savvy ball carrier vision and kicks the run outside. Mostert proceeds to hit the jets, break an ankle tackle and deliver a punishing blow as he enters the endzone for his fourth touchdown on the day.
While Mostert leaving the Niners would not be a crushing blow due to Shanahan’s ability to turn any runner into a competent offensive weapon. It was pretty obvious that, particularly down the stretch, Mostert was the 49ers best runner last year. He was more decisive in his cuts than Matt Brieda, more durable than Tevin Coleman and faster than the both of them.
However, Mostert should be aware of the dangerous caveat that all Shanahan running backs tend to see a dramatic dip in play when they are severed from the best play-caller in the NFL. Just look at former Atlanta Falcons running back Devonta Freeman. In the two years that Shanahan was offensive coordinator of the Falcons, Freeman rushed for over 1000 yards twice, 22 touchdowns and averaged a Y/A number of 4.8 in 2016 – the highest of his career. It’s also important to note that wherever Mostert goes, he won’t have the luxury of playing with the best blocking TE in the league (George Kittle) and the best FB in the league (Kyle Juszczyk).
Mostert’s value to the 49ers has already been established through leading the team in every valuable running back category and being the best runner on the field for San Francisco this past season. But how does Mostert stack up compared to the rest of the NFL?
Per Sports Info Solutions, out of running backs with minimum 100 carries, Mostert ranked ninth in average yards after contact with 2.9, over the course of his 137 Mostert accumulated 402 yards after contact. This ranks Mostert above running backs such as Alvin Kamara (2.6), Ezekiel Elliot (2.6) and Tevin Coleman (2.1). Moreover, from Week Twelve onwards, Mostert led the NFL in rushing yards (760) and was only behind Titans HB Derrick Henry in touchdowns with 12.
The Eagles seem to be the defacto suitor for Mostert (as they are with 99% of the NFL trade block). The Eagles skill position group was decimated last year, leaving a dearth of talent at both the wide receiver and running back positions. Mostert would offer a wide range of skills and talent at a decent price for Philly.
When looking at Mostert’s skill set, you can’t help but think the Chicago Bears would be a nice fit for the 28-year-old. With head coach Matt Nagy running a similar offence to Andy Reid in the Windy City, Mostert has a good chance at excelling in that Jamal Charles, Damien Williams type role. He’ll also have a good shot at being RB1 with Tarik Cohen and David Montgomery the only real competition there.
Shanahan’s influence should not be overlooked. Shanahan as proven time and time again that he can make the most unlikely of talents become household names. However, whatever team lands Mostert, they’ll be gaining a dangerous runner at an affordable cost. While Mostert’s running was severely complimented by Shanahan’s play-calling, the former journeyman has enough talent to succeed elsewhere in the NFL.