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Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Elijah Mitchell has quickly gained 49ers’ trust, gets compared to a future Hall of Famer

Nov 5, 2021 at 7:20 AM--

The initial plan for this season was for running back Raheem Mostert to receive the bulk of the workload for the San Francisco 49ers, with Jeff Wilson backing him up. While the team used two draft picks on running backs, there was no rush to ramp up their workloads. Instead, they could be eased into the offense as they learned — much like the No. 3 overall pick, quarterback Trey Lance.

Wilson suffered a torn meniscus in March. Mostert underwent season-ending surgery after Week 1. San Francisco's plans changed.

Enter rookie running back Elijah Mitchell, a sixth-round draft pick, who leaped ahead of Trey Sermon, a third-round pick, on the depth chart and has become the 49ers' featured running back. It's a job that he'll probably keep. The 23-year-old ball-carrier has proven himself to the coaching staff.

Mitchell has been in on nearly 44 percent of the offensive snap counts this season, over two times that of any other 49ers running back. Mitchell's offensive coordinator, Mike McDaniel, acknowledged that the rookie has quickly earned his trust, resulting in a healthy workload.

"No, what's interesting about him is you don't know that going into the season," Mitchell told reporters on Thursday. "You start in training camp, and you're like, 'Wow, there's some stuff in practice when he's not getting tackled.' I remember talking to you guys about it over the summer, and you're like, 'Man, there might be something there.' And then getting in games, 'Wow, he hit the right hole, again.'"

As if that wasn't high praise enough, McDaniel shared the story of one teammate comparing Mitchell to a future Hall of Fame running back.

"I think Trent Williams said something to us this week," the coach shared. "There was a play, it was probably the third run of the game in the first quarter, inside zone to the right. And it wasn't blocked premierly, so he had to just get downhill, and he ran into Trent's back. And Trent was like, 'I haven't been hit that hard by a running back since Adrian Peterson.

"So, there's some stuff to his game that, the more he plays, the more you realize that he's a special young player and there's a reason why he's having productivity, that you'd have no way of knowing [otherwise]. Even grainy Louisiana-Lafayette tape wouldn't tell you that."

Mitchell has 433 rushing yards, three rushing touchdowns, and four receptions for 30 yards through five games and four starts this season. He has rushed for over 100 yards in three games, including Sunday's 18-carry, 137-yard performance in the 49ers' 33-22 win over the Chicago Bears.

Mitchell was named Week 8's FedEx Ground NFL Player of the Week. He has the second-most rushing yards among rookies (Steelers RB Najee Harris, 479 yards), and it sounds like he will be tasked with leading the 49ers' rushing attack for the remainder of the season.

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