San Francisco 49ers: Making 5 Cases for a Change-of-Pace Running Back

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San Francisco 49ers: Making 5 Cases for a Change-of-Pace Running Back
Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Last April, the 49ers selected Anthony Dixon, running back from Mississippi State in the sixth round. However, the 49ers running back situation was a bit erratic this past season.

After the sudden retirement of second-year running back Glen Coffee before the season kicked off, the 49ers hand was forced to bring in the concussion plagued veteran Brian Westbrook. There wasn't exactly a plethora of veteran talent out there. Running backs who could learn an NFL playbook on the fly were scarce.

Despite his solid performances in filling in for Frank Gore, who fractured his hip in a victory over Arizona on Monday Night Football toward the end of the year, recent reports out of San Francisco have alluded to the strong possibility that Brian Westbrook would not be returning to the roster in 2011. Should that be the case, it would leave a vacancy on the roster.

Frank Gore has only played one full season in his career up to this point (2006). Anthony Dixon did so-so for a rookie, but it seems on the surface that he may be nothing more than a goal line, short-yardage back. It's hard to picture him carrying the full load eventually.

This brings up a topic that has been relatively popular among 49ers fans; who will fill that void? And will that person be a change-of-pace type of running back?

Or will the Niners front office seek value in drafting a prototypical back to groom and then replace Gore in a couple of years?

Whatever the thoughts may be, most teams in the National Football League have turned to a running back by committee approach. The 49ers already have their prototypical, every-down back in Gore, and already have their power back in Anthony Dixon.

With that in mind, here is a look at the top five change-of-pace running backs in this year's draft.

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