Through the years we’ve learned Kyle Shanahan is a genuine master of playing to his players’ strengths.
He found ways to succeed with Matt Schaub and Robert Griffin III and also coaxed Matt Ryan into his best season ever. He’s developed playmakers and mismatches for defenses out of guys like RG3, Alfred Morris, Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman and Taylor Gabriel.
So reviewing Shanahan’s track record might not necessarily help us come to conclusions about how he’ll use the 49ers. We can double down on this because the 49ers passing game is a gigantic question mark. You can’t even pencil in who might be their quarterback!
Let’s take a look at some of the pertinent ratios:
This is exactly what his ratio was when he arrived in Atlanta two years ago, and it remains that way today. Unless the 49ers run game becomes exceptionally strong and the defense rebuilds quickly, bank on the Niners throwing plenty in 2017.
Shanahan was steady with his rushing in Atlanta and has basically been good for this average season after season, the exception being RG3 and Morris’ rush-heavy rookie years.
The combination of Shanahan’s dedication to running back carries and his willingness to play to his team’s strengths should particularly benefit Carlos Hyde. He has averaged 16.6 carries per game over his past two seasons and began to blossom as a receiver in 2016 (2.1 catches per game). It’s safe to assume his workload will tick up under Shanahan provided that he’s healthy and that no other 49ers running back gets noticed.
These are Shanahan’s averages over his eight seasons as a play-caller, but the beauty of his work is his willingness to adapt. He’ll give gratuitous chances to anyone who can make plays.
For instance, in his two seasons with the Falcons his running backs made up 24.2 percent of all receptions and his tight ends came up with 16.2 percent. The year before in Cleveland his running backs caught 11.7 percent of all passes while the tight ends finished with 19.7 percent.
This has everything to do with talent. When Shanny has a good-hands back, a game-breaking tight end or a set of good receivers, he’ll use them all. It’s too soon to tell just who will benefit the most in San Francisco other than Hyde and, presumably, tight end Vance McDonald.
I foolishly ignored just how impactful Freeman could be under Shanahan when I reviewed him in 2015. Won’t do that again. Hyde should be considered a top 12 Fantasy running back because his likely heavy workload in a smart offense with some good run blocking players.
McDonald can be found with a late pick since he’ll be a staple in the passing game.
Everyone else in the Niners offense is up for grabs.