Elijah Mitchell Out at Least 2 Months Following MCL Sprain

During Sunday afternoon’s monsoon in Chicago, Elijah Mitchell, the San Francisco 49ers leading rusher during the 2021 season, sprained his MCL and is expected to miss at least two months (~8 games). Mitchell played in just 11 games in 2021 during his rookie season, and looks as if he will miss a significant chunk of time following Week 1’s game. The 49ers are now in need of a new face to emerge from the backfield to takeover the starting duties and you need a cheap RB to save your fantasy team!

The Historical Revolving Door of the 49ers' Backfield

As fate would have it, reoccurring team leaders in rushing haven’t been something common around the 49ers since the team brought in Head Coach Kyle Shanahan in 2017. The 49ers have had 5 consecutive seasons of a new team leader in rushing, and 2022 looks to make it a 6th straight year of a new face atop the rushing list for this team. Shanahan’s physical RB play on a week in week out basis quickly wears down players, and Mitchell has been the latest victim of the gauntlet that is SF’s lead job. Below are the five previous lead rushers for the 49ers, each of which were unable to continue their success the following season. Trey Lance is currently the team’s leading rusher entering into Week 2. 

49ers last 5 leading rushers by season:

2021: Elijah Mitchell

2020: Jeff Wilson Jr.

2019: Raheem Mostert

2018: Matt Breida

2017: Carlos Hyde

What's Next for the 49ers?

The 49ers have 3 strong options to turn to in the backfield to act as the potential replacement for Elijah Mitchell following his Week 1 injury. Below I will break down each of the options and leave you with my personal favorite to eventually emerge as the top back in Mitchell’s absence. 

Jeff Wilson Jr.

The most likely immediate replacement for Mitchell in the 49ers Week 2 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks is veteran RB Wilson Jr. who was the team’s leading rusher in 2020. Wilson is a respectable player who has provided some goal line utility throughout his career, but doesn’t have the best fantasy skill set. Wilson has struggled to consistently deliver in the passing game which limits his overall ceiling. Personally, Wilson Jr. would be my least preferred option to absorb the available work in San Fransisco, but he seems like the safest bet to handle the majority of the work early on. 

Tyrion Davis-Price

Davis-Price was one of the team’s 3rd round draft selections in the 2022 NFL Draft. Davis-Price is a downhill thumper who can lay a blow on defenders in the 2nd and 3rd levels of the defense. It’s my belief that the 49ers drafted “TDP” to be everything that Trey Sermon failed to be for this team in 2021. He looks to have cut weight since his final days at LSU, and looked leaner and twitchier in the 49ers preseason contests. When running downhill, TDP is a load to tackle and can build up some serious momentum. I believe TDP is the 49ers’ best option on the goal line due to his ability to play physical football, but like Wilson Jr., isn’t the strongest option in the receiving game. Davis-Price was a last minute healthy scratch in Week 1 against the Chicago Bears which is slightly concerning when you consider the next name we’re going to cover.

Jordan Mason

The final option of the 3 active 49ers RBs is undrafted rookie free agent Jordan Mason, who played 5 snaps in Sunday’s loss to Chicago. During the 2022 NFL preseason, Mason flashed exciting ability as a one-cut power back who also brings workhorse size to the table similarly to TDP. While both players both share the ability to be the lead back for this offense, only one can emerge as the true starter. Mason had 0 touches in Week 1 against the Bears; however, moments before the game, Mason appears to have jumped Tyrion Davis-Price as the team’s RB3 (now RB2) in this offense as Davis-Price was listed as a healthy scratch. Of all 3 options for the 49ers offense, Mason certainly appears to provide the highest ceiling to the organization and fantasy owners. If one thing’s for sure, it’s that this backfield needs to be closely monitored all week throughout practice heading into this weekend’s game. 

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