49ers roster: 3 veterans who could lose their starting job to a rookie

Samson Ebukam #56 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Samson Ebukam #56 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /
2 of 4
Elijah Mitchell, San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers running back Eli Mitchell (25) Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports /

49ers veteran No. 3: Running back Elijah Mitchell

Now, on the surface, this doesn’t seem likely, right? After all, 2021 rookie running back Elijah Mitchell set a franchise record for a first-year pro with 963 rush yards last season and did so over the course of just 11 games played.

As long as Mitchell stays healthy, he’ll be a bona fide force.

At least that’s the assumption. But it’s important to note head coach Kyle Shanahan has regularly had different leading rushers in each of his five seasons with the team. And even if Mitchell winds up being the 49ers’ most-gaining running back in 2022, he might not necessarily be the starter.

You can question whether or not the Niners “wasted” a Round 3 pick by grabbing LSU running back Tyrion Davis-Price, but the fact of the matter is he’s here now, and San Francisco is probably looking to feature the bruising 6-foot, 211-pound tailback as a starter, testing opposing defenses and wearing them down before giving way to the faster, more elusive Mitchell.

It’s not unlike the approach Shanahan used in 2019 with veteran running back Tevin Coleman, who had 14 starts that year and typically gave way to fellow rusher Raheem Mostert to “close out games.”

Don’t be shocked if Davis-Price winds up being the de facto starter this season, even if Mitchell still ends up receiving the lion’s share of touches.