The majority of expert mock drafts had a running back penciled into one of the Dolphins early picks of last week's annual selection meeting. Those picks came and went, along with the entire seven-round draft, without Miami selecting one from the rookie crop. But the backfield still received a boost over the weekend.
Chris Grier and company parlayed the 153rd selection into Matt Breida, a veteran back who averaged 5.1 yards per carry during the 49ers 2019 run to the Super Bowl – sixth-best in the NFL. During his three-year career, Breida averages an even five-yards-per-pop and he's scored 10 touchdowns and compiled 2,463 yards from scrimmage on just 448 touches (381 carries and 67 receptions).
Breida's 67 catches makes for a 75.3 percent catch rate (89 targets) and an average of 8.4 yards per reception. Breida is a chain-mover; he's converted 110 of his 448 touches into first downs, including six out of seven carries on third or fourth down and short (two yards or less).
According to Pro Football Focus, last year, Breida lined up in the backfield on 246 snaps. He was in the slot for six plays and flexed out wide on 16 occasions. He played 85 snaps on special teams.
With 18 runs last year of 10 yards or more, Breida's big-run percentage was a whopping 14.6 percent. He led all backs who had at least 10 games played in Pro Football Focus' breakaway run percentage stat.
The speed of the new Dolphins running back pops off the page. It's evident from the tape, from the production, and from his Pro Day workout in 2017 at Georgia Southern. The undrafted free agent blazed a 4.38-second 40-yard dash. Breida leapt out of the gym on both the vertical and broad jumps with a jaw-dropping 42-inch vertical and 134-inch broad jump. Perhaps even more impressive is that Breida – at 190 pounds – put up 23 reps of 225 pounds on the bench press. Those numbers certainly caught 49ers General Manager John Lynch's eye.
"He ran a 4.38 and matched that with a 42-inch vertical," Lynch told ESPN in 2018. "That's rare power and speed, and then you turn on the film and that matches it."
Going back to the 2000 NFL Scouting Combine, only two running backs have recorded a better 40-yard dash time or vertical jump.
Breida's speed to the edge puts the onus on linebackers to make quick decisions. It's difficult to outpace the speed back, particularly when he has the defender out-flanked pre-snap. His long speed and quick-cut ability changes the angle on players in pursuit at the last minute, creating plenty of missed tackles. He forced 18 missed tackles in 2019 on 180 touches for an average of 2.85 yards after contact.
While Lynch offered the praise for Breida's physical skill set, 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan commended the running back for his drive and work ethic.
"Breida's worked on everything," Shanahan told NBC Sports. "I just told our team the other day, and we have lots of guys that work hard, I think all of our guys work hard. But in terms of taking it to a whole other level, Breida and [George] Kittle showed that the first day of OTAs."
For a coach as detail-oriented as Brian Flores, Shanhan's continued comments paint a clear picture for what Miami sees in the speedster, both on the field and in the weight room and class room.
"They were just pretty obsessive in everything they were doing," Shanahan told NBC Sports. "Every little detail of their game, and it's improved in a lot of areas. And Breida in the pass game, with [Jerrick McKinnon] going down this year, it's given Breida more opportunities. He work a lot in the offseason so he could be ready for those opportunities."
It was Breida's work habits that first attracted the undrafted free agent to Shanahan in his first camp in San Francisco.
"Breida endeared himself to the coaching staff for his toughness and work ethic," writes Chris Biderman of Ninerswire.com. "He worked with the starters during [his first] OTA camp as an undrafted rookie."
Arriving in Miami on a one-year deal, Breida's base salary and cap hit both account for just a shade under $3.26 million. He is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent next season after signing his restricted free agency tender – which came with a second round distinction – with the 49ers prior to his trade to Miami.