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Should San Francisco look at Stanford’s Bryce Love in NFL Draft?

Niner Noise takes a look at if the San Francisco 49ers should be interested in taking Stanford’s Bryce Love, a running back whose 2019 NFL Draft stock has dropped immensely.

A year ago, Stanford running back Bryce Love was considered one of the most talented backs in college football, winning the Lombardi Award and being named the runner-up for the prestigious Heisman Trophy. It was the perfect time to declare for the 2018 NFL Draft, but Love wanted to complete his education at Stanford University before going pro and decided to stay for his senior year.

However, the decision has seemed to greatly backfire on him so far, as Love struggled in 2018, averaging just 4.5 yards per carry on the season. Even worse, the running back tore his ACL in a rivalry game against Cal on Dec. 1, ending his collegiate career and raising questions about his recovery.

After his incredible Heisman-campaign season, Love was considered a third-round draft pick by experts. His disappointing follow-up season, plus the ACL injury, should push his draft stock down a couple rounds or more in 2019.

The San Francisco 49ers are set at running back right now, with 2018 star free-agent signee Jerick McKinnon still waiting to be unleashed into this offense after suffering an ACL injury, Matt Breida having a breakout year and Raheem Mostert doing an exemplary job at running the ball as a reserve when his name was called.

However, if Love is sitting there in the sixth — or even fifth — round of the NFL Draft, it would be hard to pass on him, because while he is not only a tailored fit for head coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense, he is also a true talent.

PALO ALTO, CA – OCTOBER 27: Bryce Love #20 of the Stanford Cardinal fights off the tackle of Jahad Woods #13 of the Washington State Cougars during the first half of their NCAA football game at Stanford Stadium on October 27, 2018 in Palo Alto, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

Love is pretty average as a power-type back. But if he gets into the open field, he’s going to take it the distance. His ability to break open-field tackles is nothing short of outstanding and a huge reason why he shined at Stanford with the Cardinals’ beefy offensive line. He has quick feet, good control of the ball (never lost a fumble in college), but his biggest strength is his vision.

Love is excellent at quickly scanning through his offensive line to see where the open lane is, and once he does, he runs through it like a cheetah.

This quick decision-making, paired up with the 49ers’ strong run-blocking offensive line in Shanahan’s offense that is so reliant on getting running backs in space, is nothing less than a perfect match.

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Love is a steal at where he’s projected to be drafted. There is a good crop of running backs entering the draft this year, and the 49ers have too many other needs to pick one early — which makes it the perfect opportunity for general manager John Lynch to make another stellar late-round pick.

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