49ers NFL Draft: Kyle Shanahan can get the most out of Elijah Mitchell

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns running back Elijah Mitchell (15) Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns running back Elijah Mitchell (15) Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports /

Although he’s the last pick of the 49ers’ NFL Draft class, Elijah Mitchell has definite potential as a potential gadget player.

With the San Francisco 49ers having their first official run on the practice field during rookie minicamp, rookie running back Elijah Mitchell made a positive first impression.

Mitchell was a favored target of rookie quarterback Trey Lance, and while it’s impossible to take anything from a minicamp this early in the season, it’s a positive start nonetheless which will be worth monitoring.

Chemistry means everything, and if Mitchell can form a rapport with Lance, he can be a fixture in the offense despite being the final pick of the Niners’ 2021 NFL Draft class.

Mitchell has all the attributes head coach Kyle Shanahan loves to scheme with a creative flair. He’s speedy, runs tough and he can benefit from the running back platoon system Shanahan favors.

But what will truly make Shanahan take notice is how Mitchell can do the three football “Rs” of rushing, receiving and returning. It was already known Mitchell has some impressive speed (he ran a 4.38 40-yard time at his pro day) that’ll be of use in both the rushing and receiving game, but Mitchell has an underappreciated ability to be a natural receiver, too.

The 49ers offense relies on shifting and misdirection to freeze and misdirect the defense and releasing receivers open for big plays. With Mitchell’s blazing speed and ability to catch the ball, he has a real shot of not only being the starting kick returner for San Francisco but even carve out a niche in the passing game.

And not even necessarily at running back either. We’ve seen Shanahan move wide receiver Deebo Samuel into the backfield to take advantage of his ability to run with the ball, and with the 49ers in need of a slot receiver, it isn’t out of the question for Mitchell to do it in reverse and line up at receiver.

With Shanahan, anything is an option. He has an ability to take the best attributes of a receiver and milk the most out of it for his offense.

The Niners are an organization that gives late draft picks (or undrafted rookies) opportunities to produce if they deserve it. Mitchell has several ways he could contribute to the team right away and then carve out a larger role in the team, he has the talent and he’s at the right team to do it.

Mitchell certainly has a lot of upsides, and Kyle Shanahan is the coach that can get the most out of him in 2021.

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