A “home run” hitter player has been a staple for the 49ers.
Their offense has thrived and is at its zenith when it has that type of player who can take it all the way. Raheem Mostert was that player in 2019 and Deebo Samuel took over in 2021. It’s not a coincidence that their most successful seasons under Kyle Shanahan occurred with those two “home run” players. In fact, the 49ers’ offense needs that player in order to find success.
Unfortunately, that player won’t be Samuel in 2022. Given his displeasurs with his dual usage, he'll more likely than not be an exclusive wide receiver. Samuel will still have home run capability, but most of his huge gains and impact plays came as a running back in 2021. 2022 will need to see someone else step up for the 49ers.
Who can the 49ers look to takeover the "home run" role on offense?
No one. There is no one else who can fill in that impactful role. Mostert and Samuel were capable with that role because of their speed and vision. There is no one on the roster who matches that. Elijah Mitchell doesn't have that electric speed and is spending the offseason bulking up, so I doubt he has that in him consistently. Brandon Aiyuk was called upon a few times for some jet sweeps or end arounds, but Kyle Shanahan got away from that, so he probably isn't viewed to have that capability consistently.
Here is where the 49ers can actually find that new home run player -- the passing game.
Trey Lance will be the one to deliver the home run plays now. The 49ers finally have a quarterback who can deliver it down the field. Indications of how much they will dial it up deep were already seen from Lance in his limited action last year as 18.3 percent of his throws were 20-plus yards downfield. This is where the 49ers will find their new home run success. Before, it always derived from someone in the backfield. They had no choice but to rely on that or quick smoke screens to the wide receiver thanks to the limitations of Jimmy Garoppolo.
No longer will that be an issue. What the 49ers will need to do is flip their philosophy from run to pass being the heavy hitter. Make no mistake, they will still be a run first team, but instead of looking for the run game to deliver the haymakers, they'll be more of a grind it out style. The run game will be used in support of Lance -- not to mask him. Drafting Danny Gray looks to be an agreement from the 49ers that they will use the arm of Lance to register these home run plays.
The days of Mostert and Samuel ripping off runs from the backfield are most likely over. But with a physically gifted player in Lance who can raise the heights of the passing game, the 49ers turn the page to a new era in their offense. One that can see them overcome challenges that they couldn't do in years past.