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49ers 90-in-90: Elijah Mitchell enters a crucial third year

Breaking down the 90 players on the 49ers offseason roster in 90 posts (over 90 or so days). Today is

NFC Divisional Playoffs - Dallas Cowboys v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

The 49ers selected Elijah Mitchell at the end of the 2021 NFL Draft, and the young man paid dividends immediately. Mitchell broke the rookie rushing record as the 49ers advanced to the NFC Championship game.

What makes his season more impressive is that Mitchell broke the record in 11 games, ten of which he started. Unfortunately, that is the root of Mitchell’s issues as a 49er. Mitchell followed his record-breaking season with a five-game season.

Christian McCaffrey entered the fold mid-season in 2022, but Mitchell still holds a vital role as a change-up back who can spell McCaffrey and keep the wear and tear to a minimum. The only question surrounding Mitchell is his health. Perhaps, McCaffrey’s presence can keep Mitchell fresh and vice versa. Either way, the team needs Mitchell to prove he can withstand the physical nature of the NFL.

Basic Info

Age: 25

Experience: 2 accrued seasons

Height: 5’10”

Weight: 200 lbs.

Cap Status

Elijah Mitchell signed a four-year, $3,663,568 contract with the San Francisco 49ers, including a $183,568 signing bonus, $183,568 guaranteed, and an average annual salary of $915,892. This year, Mitchell will earn a base salary of $940,000 while carrying a cap hit of $985,892 and a dead cap value of $91,784, according to Spotrac.

How he can improve in 2023

Anthony Lynn spoke at length about what he expects from his running back room. The dynamic McCaffrey brings to the play-calling can’t change with someone else on the field. Mitchell needs to improve as a receiver. Kyle Shanahan can keep his rhythm as a play caller despite any substitution. It’s a point of emphasis this offseason, and Mitchell has the skill set to thrive.

Where Mitchell makes his mark

Nearly half of Mitchell’s rushing yards in 2021 were after contact. Mitchell is great at taking what is presented by blocking. In 2022, 109 of Mitchell’s 279 rushing yards were after contact. The same physicality Mitchell displays could be the cause of his injury issues. His nose for the end zone is a plus. Mitchell has scored seven touchdowns on 252 carries over his career.

Mitchell is a talented back in an extremely running back friendly system. It’s not a question of talent but rather his health.