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ESPN picks intriguing 49ers fantasy sleeper candidate

Sep 4, 2023 at 9:21 AM--

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Elijah Mitchell is healthy and ready to go for Week 1. That's what the San Francisco 49ers running back told reporters last week. In addition to fine-tuning his rushing skills, Mitchell has been working to be a better option as a receiver. There is no one better to learn from than another veteran player in the running back room, Christian McCaffrey.

"His third-down skills are crazy, the way he catches the ball, runs routes," Mitchell said after last Thursday's practice. "I think we feed off each other. And just both of us could catch the ball and run. It's unbelievable. So it's awesome."

If McCaffrey needs some rest—or needs to sit out a game or two—Mitchell would be the first player to replace him. That has ESPN thinking the third-year running back might be a fantasy football sleeper candidate to watch.

"In coach Kyle Shanahan's schemed run game, you can tag Mitchell as one of the league's top backup runners," NFL analyst Matt Bowen wrote in ESPN's 2023 season preview. "If Christian McCaffrey were to miss time, Mitchell would move up as an RB2 with his decisive running style and short-area speed to produce rushing totals."

Mitchell had an impressive rookie campaign in 2021. Last year, injuries sidelined the running back for 12 games. However, he doesn't plan to change his punishing style of running.

"I'm a physical player, so that's what I do," Mitchell said. "Stuff happens [in] football, but I'm just on the verge of just wanting to have a good year and just run like I usually run."

Writer Seth Walder was tasked with making one bold prediction for the 49ers' upcoming season. He predicts big things for All-Pro tight end George Kittle.

"George Kittle will reach 1,000 receiving yards for the first time since 2019," Walder wrote. "Despite fewer receiving yards over the past few seasons, Kittle's receiving ability hasn't wavered. In each of the past four seasons, he has ranked in the top two in the receiver tracking metrics' overall score among tight ends. He also established a rapport with Purdy late last season that will pay off in 2023."

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