Other than the Baltimore Ravens, the San Francisco 49ers were the most dominant rushing team in the NFL in 2019. After trading one running back to the Miami Dolphins, another one is demanding a trade to pursue his value in the league. After leading the team in rushing yards last year, what is Raheem Mostert’s value to the 49ers?
Earlier this week, news broke that Mostert had submitted a trade request to the 49ers. According to his agent, Brett Tessler, Mostert, and the 49ers had been in contract negotiations for months that had proved fruitless.
“After months of unproductive talks with the 49ers about fairly adjusting Mostert’s contract (which paid him for special teams) we have requested a trade.”
A former undrafted free agent out of Purdue, Mostert had bounced around multiple teams before finding a home in San Francisco in 2016. As Tessler alluded to in his statement on Twitter, Mostert has predominantly been a special teams piece during his time in the league. His career special teams snaps before 2019 outnumbered his offensive snaps by 361 to 105.
Raheem Mostert showed his value in 2019
Then came Mostert’s breakout 2019 season.
Mostert led the 49ers in rushing yards, rushing yards per carry, and rushing touchdowns. His performance in the NFC Championship game will go down in 49ers folklore, securing 220 rushing yards and four touchdowns to guide San Francisco to a first Super Bowl appearance since 2012.
Despite this, he remains one of the lowest-paid players in the running back room. Currently, he would sit behind Jerick McKinnon, Kyle Juszczyk, and Tevin Coleman. If Matt Breida hadn’t been traded to the Dolphins, he would have been paid more too.
According to Tessler, all they want is to bring Mostert in line with the other running backs on the roster. McKinnon, for example, is set to earn nearly $5 million dollars more in 2020 despite having not played a snap since 2017. Coleman will earn almost $2 million more in base salary alone.
Although running backs have less bargaining power than they ever have had, it seems a reasonable request. Mostert is just trying to get the value that he feels he deserves.
Quantifying Mostert’s value to the 49ers
As mentioned before, with 772 rushing yards, Mostert led the 49ers running back room in 2019. He secured over a third of the 49ers league-leading 23 rushing touchdowns. His 5.6 yards per carry were not only the best on the team but led the entire NFL.
If that wasn’t enough evidence of Moster’s value to the 49ers in 2019, an examination of Pro Football Network’s Offensive Share Metric (OSM) and NFL Next Gen Stats (NGS) provides further evidence to support his argument that he deserves at least parity with his colleagues.
Mostert led all 49ers running backs with an OSM grade of 20.21.
That grade saw Mostert rank as the fifth running back in the NFL. Coleman received a grade of 19.53 (RB7), and Breida was a little further behind the two with an OSM grade of 17.31 (RB13).
The fact that the 49ers had three running backs ranked in the Top 15 in the NFL is a testament to the scheme of head coach Kyle Shanahan.
Mostert’s grade was the highest for a 49ers running back since 2016, the year that OSM and NGS have been recorded since. In 2018, Alfred Morris achieved a grade of 18.20 (RB5), with Breida again being the least valuable back for the 49ers with a grade of 16.68 (RB13). Carlos Hyde was the 49ers leading back in 2017 and 2016 with grades of 18.76 (RB15) and 12.55 (RB42), respectively.
It is, therefore, possible to argue that Mostert has been the most valuable running back for the 49ers since 2016.
He was certainly the most efficient running back in San Francisco in 2019
Mostert averaged 3.48 yards traveled to pick up a yard during the regular season, ranking 6th out of 48 qualifying running backs. By contrast, Breida ranked 35th with Coleman ranking just 43rd, averaging 4.28 yards.
Coleman’s lack of efficiency is mitigated by the fact that he faced an 8+ man box on 40.15% of his offensive snaps, the most in the league. Mostert wasn’t exactly given an easy ride of it, however, picking up his league-leading 5.6 yards per carry while facing 32.12% of his snaps against an 8+ man box. That percentage ranked for the ninth highest in the NFL in 2019.
Although the box score points to the 49ers win over the Packers in the NFC Championship Game as the highlight of his career, Mostert provided the most value for the 49ers in a game that helped get them to that point.
Mostert received a near-elite OSM grade of 36.92 (RB1) in a 26-21 victory.
The 49ers needed to beat the Seattle Seahawks to win the NFC West in Week 17. The victory would also give them homefield advantage and a first-round bye in the NFL Playoffs.
Mostert’s 57 yards may seem meager compared to the 220 he would rack up just three weeks later, but he ground out 5.7 yards per carry despite facing a huge 80% of his snaps against an 8+ man box defense. His efficiency was still good enough for 12th in the league, with 3.34 yards traveled to gain a yard.
Despite having a loaded running back room heading into the 2020 NFL season, with Jeff Wilson, Jamycal Hasty, and Savon Ahmed in addition to Coleman, McKinnon, and Mostert, can the 49ers really afford to lose their most valuable running back from last season?
ESPN has Mostert listed as the 49ers RB1 in their unofficial pre-season depth chart.
It’s time for San Francisco to pay him at least as an equal to the rest of the veteran running backs in their building.