Deep Dive: Getting to Know Elijah Mitchell and What He Brings to the 49ers
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The head coach of the San Francisco 49ers might have shown that he doesn’t really have a type when it comes to quarterbacks, but he sure has a type when it comes to running backs. He likes them fast.
After signing Wayne Gallman just days before the 2021 NFL draft, and with incumbent starter Raheem Mostert, proven backup Jeff Wilson Jr., and second-year man JaMycal Hasty still on the roster, the 49ers were not expected to focus on running backs in the draft. Then they drafted Trey Sermon in the third round, a back out of Ohio State who compliments the runners on the roster with a strong bruising style of running. That made sixth round pick Elijah Mitchell, RB from Lafayette-Louisiana a complete surprise, but you know, Shanahan has his type, and Mitchell is his type.
To start out with, Mitchell is fast. He’s 4.33-in-the-40-yard-dash-fast. He also isn’t a dancer, but morea north-south, one-cut runner. He hits a hole and then makes everyone else try to catch him. At 5’11” and 215 pounds, he’s Frank Gore size without Gore’s pass-protection ability. Mitchell’s speed and ability to get upfield fast will benefit not only the run game but the pass game as well. The real question is: will he be able to show himself above Mostert, Wilson, Gallman, Hasty, and Sermon? The team isn’t going to carry six running backs. Carrying five would affect other spots on the roster. That means he will have to outperform two of those five listed players to make the roster.
Mitchell has experience in an outside-zone run game, but his scouting report says he’s stiff in his hips. This means he’ll struggle a bit if the holes aren’t opened up for him, and don’t expect him to shift directions to make a defensive back miss. He is either going to run past, or over, said defensive back.
He should still be able to perform well in Shanahan’s run game. If running backs coach Bobby Turner can help him with footwork and his vision, Mitchell could be a real steal in the sixth round. Mitchell also has above average hands, having picked up a good chunk of yards and touchdowns in the passing game in college and he could become a third-down back for the 49ers, something they haven’t really had during the Shanahan era.
Being the only bell cow in the backfield shouldn’t be a concern for Mitchell, as he shared running back duties throughout college. He’s used to working hard and doing everything that he can to catch the eyes of coaches. Mitchell is a hard working RB who will do what it takes to earn a spot on the roster.
One spot where he could shine is on special teams. Not a returner or a special teams ace in college, Mitchell could earn his spot on the initial 53-man roster as a speedy return man and a dangerously fast gunner on special teams. Both Mostert and Wilson have struggled to remain healthy for a full season. If Mitchell could open the door through special teams, he just might earn a chance to show what he has to offer on offense.
If you like to watch highlight reels, here is Mitchell’s 2020 college highlights:
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