5. Dexter Carter, 1990 to 1996 – 1,042 YDS, 5 TDs
Former first-round draft pick Dexter Carter was a running back on paper, but 49ers fans knew him best as their dynamic kick and punt return specialist. Carter ranks fourth all-time in punt return yards and second all-time in kick return yards. His most notable game came on December 17, 1990 against the Rams where he ran for 124 yards and one touchdown on Monday Night Football.
4. Kevan Barlow, 2001 to 2005 – 3,984 YDS, 24 TDs
After losing Charlie Garner and still unsure of the status of injured Garrison Hearst, the 49ers used their third-round draft pick on former University of Pittsburgh running back, Kevan Barlow. Barlow hung around for five seasons with the 49ers before moving on to the New York Jets. His most notable game came in 2003 where he went for 154 yards and two touchdowns (one receiving) in a 50-14 win over the Arizona Cardinals.
3. Charlie Garner, 1999 to 2000 – 2,371 YDS, 11 TDs
Garner had two terrific years in San Francisco; becoming the first 49ers running back to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons since Roger Craig accomplished the feat in ’88 and ’89. His 124 receptions for 1,182 yards out of the backfield made Garner a legitimate dual-threat RB1. After the 2000 season, Garner, who was an unrestricted free agent at the time, signed with the Oakland Raiders. “I always had the Raiders in my mind,” said Garner. Oh well, c’est la vie.
2. Ricky Watters, 1992 to 1994 – 2,840 YDS, 25 TDs
Watters should be number one on this list. His five touchdown performance against the New York Giants in the 1993 Divisional Round of the playoffs essentially ended the career of Giants linebacker, Lawrence Taylor. That should be enough to gain the number one spot alone. But it’s not. Following his three touchdown performance in Super Bowl XXIX, Watters took the money and joined the Philadelphia Eagles. Blame Watters. Blame the 49ers. Blame whoever you want. Bottom line is at the start of the 1995 seasons, Ricky Watters was no longer a San Francisco 49er. Not that I’m still bitter or anything.
1. Garrison Hearst, 1997 to 1998 and 2001 to 2003 – 5,535 YDS, 26 TDs
If you’re old enough to remember Garrison Hearst, you’re old enough to remember his 96-yard overtime run against the New York Jets to open the 1998 season. He gave the 49ers five great years, three of which came after a gruesome ankle injury that some thought would end his playing career. Following the 2001 season, Hearst became the first San Francisco 49ers running back to rush for 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons – technically (he missed the ’99 and ’00 seasons due to injury). A record that stood until the great Frank Gore came along.