49ers roster: 4 rookies to watch during 2021 OTA practices

Offensive and defensive linemen of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
Offensive and defensive linemen of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images) /
1 of 4
San Francisco 49ers training camp at SAP Performance Facility. Mandatory Credit: San Francisco 49ers/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Network /

The 49ers will kick off their offseason organized team activities (OTAs) soon, and these four rookies should be on the high-profile watch list.

It’s amazing just how quick the San Francisco 49ers‘ offseason can be. Not long ago, fans were gearing up for the start of free agency, then the 2021 NFL Draft.

And with the dust of the draft now settling down, the Niners are now preparing for one of the first full-team phases of their offseason program, organized team activities.

OTAs are padless, yet there’s enough to get excited about as head coach Kyle Shanahan and Co. prepare what should be a playoff-caliber roster ahead of the regular season.

Understandably so, first-year players always get a lot of attention during OTAs. Because of the pandemic last year, OTAs were conducted remotely, and there weren’t the reports stemming out of San Francisco’s practice fields outside Levi’s Stadium.

That’ll change in 2021 with things returning to normal amid the pandemic.

The 49ers brought aboard eight players via the 2021 NFL Draft along with four additional undrafted free agents. There is likely to be some minor roster jockeying between now and the kickoff of OTAs on May 24. But nevertheless, you’ll want to keep a closer eye on these four rookies as they try working their way up the depth chart.

49ers Rookie No. 4: RB Elijah Mitchell

Veteran running backs tend to get it easy during OTAs, meaning runners like Raheem Mostert aren’t likely to be asked to do too much. And with the Niners investing a second-round pick in Ohio State’s Trey Sermon, there’s a good chance the Round 2 rookie won’t have to do overly too much to make the 53-man roster.

The same can’t be automatically said about San Francisco’s sixth-round pick, Louisiana running back Elijah Mitchell, however.

Mitchell is an enticing player for Shanahan’s offense. No stranger to speed, having ran a 4.38 40-yard time at his pro day, Mitchell’s dual-threat capabilities as a pass-catcher and rusher make for a useful weapon.

The 49ers cleared out the running back room a bit by waiving Austin Walter. But along with Mostert and Sermon, Mitchell will have to compete with fellow tailbacks like Jeff Wilson Jr. and JaMycal Hasty.

Mitchell has the chance to be the most explosive out of those three, gaining some early recognition if he impresses with his speed and one-cut abilities.

If those are enough, he might find himself ascending the depth chart by the time training camp rolls around.