With a handful of major pro days taking place Wednesday, the 49ers made sure to be represented at Florida’s. Multiple big name prospects worked out there, from defensive linemen Taven Bryan to receiver Antonio Callaway, and even former Gator-turned-Baltimore Raven Matt Elam, who is looking to get back in the league.
But it’s possible the 49ers were there looking for a diamond in the rough.
That diamond? Running back Mark Thompson.
Thompson, who measured in at 6-foot-2, 236 pounds at the pro day Wednesday, consistently ran in the 4.4s. One media member had an unofficial 4.38 40-time, so perhaps estimate on the low side of the 4.4s. Thompson also leapt a hair over 10-feet in the broad jump, and caught the ball well. The 49ers were represented by a tenured regional scout. Thompson is on the team's radar and the scout “thought he had a fantastic day.”
While he is generating real NFL interest, the running back is mostly under the radar because he was a late bloomer. A JUCO transfer, Thompson only appeared in 19 games for Florida over two seasons, and was only given 126 carries over that time. But when he touched the ball, his numbers were very impressive.
In 2016, his first year at Florida, he carried the ball 68 times and averaged 4.4 yards per carry, and scored twice.
In 2017, his final season, he carried the ball only 58 times, improved to 5.1 yards per carry, and scored three times.
He also proved he could be a threat catching the ball. In what should’ve been a transitional year, going from junior college to Florida, Thompson caught four passes for 105 yards and a touchdown. He caught 12 balls the next year for 79 yards.
Thompson makes a lot of sense for the 49ers.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan and running backs coach Bobby Turner have made careers off of mid-round to undrafted free-agent running backs, which is where Thompson is projected as a rawer prospect. They're confident in their ability to identify athletic traits like these and develop them within their system.
And Thompson meets their criteria in terms of breakaway speed and receiving ability. And on top of that, he’d be extremely complementary to what the 49ers have now. Their running backs are 5-foot-9 and 5-foot-11, with the taller of the two being under 200 pounds.
Right away, Thompson could be the hammer for this newly formed committee. He is tough to bring down.
Here's the receiving ability he showcased, which is important to Shanahan who includes the running backs in the passing attack, and run screens not unlike the two seen here.
He can also be an underneath/middle-of-the-field option for the quarterback.
To complete the package, and why Thompson's worth taking on and developing, is his natural vision and cutting ability. He's got what it takes for a running back to be featured at the next level.
Fit with 49ers:
Jerick McKinnon and Matt Breida are very good running backs that will do a lot of damage for the 49ers, but both can be categorized as undersized. At the same time, they're paying McKinon top-5 running back money and expect him to be the lead guy, so don't want to invest too much capital in the position. Thompson is a fit in terms of style, cost, and opportunity for development. He would bring a complementary element with his size, and also be able to execute the full gamut of Shanahan's offense.
Media courtesy Florida Gators