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Was Trading RB Jeff Wilson Jr. A Good Decision?

The San Francisco 49ers are currently 4-4 as they enter their bye week with a good chance at making the playoffs for the third time under Kyle Shanahan’s leadership. Before the trade deadline yesterday, the Niners traded running back Jeff Wilson Jr. to the Miami Dolphins. Was this the right decision?

49ers Trade Jeff Wilson Jr. To The Miami Dolphins

In an offense that has struggled this season, running back Jeff Wilson Jr. has started nearly every game this season due to Elijah Mitchell’s injury in Week One. However, due to the offense struggling, the 49ers decided to trade for superstar running back Christian McCaffrey to be the starting back for the rest of this season and for years to come.

With the McCaffrey trade and Mitchell’s return on the horizon, Jeff Wilson bumps down from the starter to a third-string RB. Wilson who currently ranks 15th in the NFL in rushing yards could have a bigger role in an NFL offense. The veteran RB is a physical runner and a good pass catcher out of the backfield, but he, unfortunately, plays on a team with a crowded running back room.

Jeff Wilson Jr. first signed with the 49ers as an undrafted free agent in 2018 and he has made contributions to the offense when his number was called. Now in being sent to the Miami Dolphins, Wilson will play under former Niners’ offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel and alongside former teammate Raheem Mostert. Wilson replaces Chase Edmonds who was traded to Denver.

Compensation For The 49ers

The compensation the 49ers received in exchange for Jeff Wilson was a fifth-round draft pick in next year’s NFL Draft. Was this enough?

Well considering Wilson came into the league as an undrafted free agent, to develop a player in such a fashion to the point he becomes a highly valued depth piece who turns into a draft pick for your organization, that is a good return on investment. Some might think that a fifth-round pick isn’t very valuable and that maybe the 49ers gave him up too easily. However, it is important to remember the notable selections the Niners have made in the later rounds of the draft.

George Kittle, Dre Greenlaw and Talanoa Hufanga are all examples of successful fifth-round draft selections from the 49ers who have turned out to be developed into stars. Elijah Mitchell was just recently selected in the sixth round of the NFL Draft as well. The Niners know how to identify talent late in the draft and develop them into solid NFL players. It is also important to remember that between the trade with Miami to draft Trey Lance and the deal with Carolina for McCaffrey, the 49ers have given up a ton of draft picks. This was a great opportunity to replenish some capital.

Trading Wilson, a backup who is scheduled for unrestricted free agency next off-season, for a pick you could use on a young player to develop for multiple years on a cheap salary, is a huge win.


Who Won This Trade?

All parties involved were the winners of this trade. The 49ers got to unload a third-string back in a crowded running back room for a draft pick they can either use on a player or as trade ammunition to acquire another player or maneuver in the draft. Some fans are concerned about the durability of Christian McCaffrey and Elijah Mitchell which is fair, but Wilson has also had his share of durability problems in his limited action since 2018.

On top of that, if the 49ers need to rely on any third-string running back to make a Super Bowl push, they won’t have a chance at winning regardless. The offense for the most part has been the main issue for this team and the running game has been inconsistent, hence the trade for McCaffrey. It is also important to remember the carry distribution will heavily go to McCaffrey and Mitchell with some Deebo Samuel sprinkled in. With all this being taken into account, getting a fifth-round pick for a player who isn’t supposed to see the field much at all and would likely leave in free agency next year is a huge win.

The 49ers also drafted Tyrion-Davis Price this off-season and signed undrafted free agent Jordan Mason who was a preseason standout. It is unlikely they would go with a veteran RB who has had an injury history instead of developing two rookies as depth pieces. With the number of all-pros the Niners have on offense and with Brandon Aiyuk’s ascension, this offense shouldn’t require the services of Jeff Wilson Jr. to be successful.

For the Dolphins, they get a solid RB to replace Chase Edmonds who was a part of the deal with Denver for Bradley Chubb. Not just a solid RB, but one who is also familiar with McDaniel and the offense he runs. Wilson should be an instant good fit in Miami.

For Wilson, he gets another opportunity to capitalize on what is a career season for him so far during a contract year. If he stays healthy, continues to be a solid contributor and shows he can do so with multiple teams, he just might earn himself a nice payday in free agency.

All in all, this trade was a win for everybody involved.

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