49ers roster 2023: All Elijah Mitchell has to do is stay healthy (and that might be hard)

One can only imagine what Elijah Mitchell's young career would have looked like if he had played a full two years with the 49ers.
San Francisco 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell (25)
San Francisco 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell (25) / Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Elijah Mitchell has been plagued by injuries in each of his two seasons with the 49ers, which means he should have one goal in 2023: stay healthy.

After appearing in 11 games during his rookie season in 2021, San Francisco 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell vowed to come back stronger his sophomore year and not let injuries get in the way of what was going to be a true breakout season for the former Louisiana Ragin' Cajun.

It sounded enticing enough, considering Mitchell set a franchise record for a rookie that season by rushing for 963 yards. Had he played at that level over a full 17-game season, Mitchell would have had nearly 1,500 rush yards and could have cemented himself as the Niners' top tailback entering 2022 with no questions asked.

Except injuries got in the way again, big time.





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Two MCL injuries, one in Week 1 and another in Week 12, relegated Mitchell to just five regular-season games. And while he was able to return for the playoffs, San Francisco had already shaken up the running back room in a major way.

The midseason blockbuster trade for All-Pro Christian McCaffrey drastically altered head coach Kyle Shanahan's offense.

And it also made Mitchell a significantly less-important commodity.

Mitchell will still be a key cog in the offense, yes. But he has to do something he hasn't been able to do over his first two years in the league.

Stay healthy.

What is Elijah Mitchell's contract with 49ers?

Mitchell is still very much an affordable commodity entering year three of the original four-year rookie deal signed back when he was drafted in 2021.

According to Spotrac, Mitchell will earn $940,000 this season as part of that four-year, $3.66 million contract that had $183,568 guaranteed at signing.

While it's not likely, should the 49ers elect to waive Mitchell as part of pre-Week 1 roster cuts, it would cost them $91,784 in dead money this year and $45,892 next season.

Is it feasible for Mitchell to be waived, though?

What will Elijah Mitchell's role with 49ers be in 2023?

Mitchell is fast. That helps explain why he rushed for a franchise rookie record in 2021 and then averaged over 6 yards a carry in his abbreviated 2022 campaign.

That said, the depth chart behind McCaffrey is very fluid. Mitchell might be the presumed No. 2 tailback, but he'll be pressured by fellow second-year pros, Jordan Mason and Tyrion Davis-Price, who are looking to carve out bigger roles.

Additionally, undrafted rookies Ronald Awatt and Khalan Laborn could shake things up, too.

Read more: Should Jordan Mason or Elijah Mitchell be 49ers' No. 2 running back behind Christian McCaffrey?

Mitchell is in much better shape, roster-wise, than Davis-Price and the two undrafted free agents. But it's possible the Niners see Mason as a better change-of-pace back to McCaffrey than Mitchell.

Or, if San Francisco is overly infatuated with one of the two UDFAs and/or sees exceptional improvement from Davis-Price, the oft-injured Mitchell potentially becomes an excess commodity.

Likely? No. But possible.

If Mitchell stays healthy, however, he bucks that trend and reputation, likely saving himself that roster spot through the rest of his contract.

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