Elijah Mitchell should be thrilled Raheem Mostert left in free agency

Eli Mitchell #25 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Eli Mitchell #25 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Elijah Mitchell shot out the gate his rookie season, and with Raheem Mostert gone, all eyes will be on Mitchell to solidify the 49ers’ running game.

With training camp just weeks away, Elijah Mitchell is now the No. 1 option in the San Francisco 49ers backfield.

This time last year, the Niners’ sixth-round pick out of Louisiana was thought of as insurance at best to the returning, but oft-injured featured back Raheem Mostert.

How things can change in one year.

Mostert signed with the Miami Dolphins in free agency after missing all but one game in 2021 because of a knee injury, now giving the dynamic Mitchell an opportunity to build upon his scintillating NFL-debut season in which he lead the team with 963 yards rushing, setting a franchise record for a rookie.

Mitchell possesses all the tools needed to be a franchise back and demonstrated that several times in 2021 with his sub-4.4 speed and big-play ability. The former Ragin’ Cajun went for over 100 yards five times last season in only 11 games, which also set a new franchise record for a rookie. Additionally, Mitchell’s ability as a one-cut runner in head coach Kyle Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme has San Francisco fans excited to see what the results will look like in year two.

Mostert, on the other hand, is trying to revive his career as a starter in the league. Still recovering from the Week 1 injury that wiped out the rest of his 2021 season, the former Niner has plenty of competition among his new Miami teammates.

According to Mostert, his prognosis looks good and his knee is recovering nicely in time for him to show what he has in store for the upcoming season:

With San Francisco’s former offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel as the Dolphins’ head coach, Mostert has familiarity with what will be asked of him.

When healthy, there are few backs who possess the game-changing ability of Mostert. Great for him.

Elijah Mitchell must shake injuries to hold on to a featured role

The similarities between the two backs hopefully stop with their inability to stay healthy. Mitchell had more injuries last year than the Faithful care to remember and leaves questions as to whether he can remain active for all 17 games this season.

The middle of the 49ers’ offensive line lost two starters, Laken Tomlinson and Alex Mack, due to free agency and retirement, respectively, and even if Mitchell improves upon his rookie campaign, the large running lanes he was accustomed to might not look the same. If the injury bug does come back to haunt him, or if he gets off to a slow start, the Niners have other tailbacks who can fill in as needed.

San Francisco drafted former LSU running back Tyrion Davis-Price in the third round, not only as insurance for Mitchell but as more competition. Shanahan has never been afraid to have a committee of running backs at his disposal and will play the most productive player, regardless of past history. Davis-Price can be a great complement to Mitchell, along with the other capable backs on the roster.

This might be beneficial for Mitchell in keeping him fresh for the duration of the season if injuries do continue to plague him in his career.

It’s imperative the 49ers are successful in the running game, with or without Mitchell, if they want to make a deep run in the playoffs. Having a dominant rushing attack is important for quarterback Trey Lance as he gets settled in as the starter, too.

A year in the life of an NFL running back can change in the blink of an eye. One moment, you are an afterthought, and the next moment you are thought of as the future franchise back.

Read More: Elijah Mitchell to make leap as a first-time Pro Bowler in 2022

Mitchell has a chance to be the bell cow the 49ers have been yearning for since the days of legendary Niners running back Frank Gore. If Mitchell wants to have a successful career with San Francisco, his imprints will be all over the 2022 football season.

With the departure of Mostert, Mitchell has a huge opportunity in front of him. The relatively unknown rookie out of Louisiana is now the future of the 49ers.

How long that future lasts will depend upon his ability to stay healthy.

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