San Francisco 49ers’ Elijah Mitchell Goes From Sixth Round Election to Adrian Peterson Comparisons – NFL Nation

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SANTA CLARA, California – At 6-foot-5, 320 pounds and with the strength to match, San Francisco 49ers left tackle Trent Williams is not easy to move.

Therefore, his short list of running backs that have left a lasting, physical impact on him consists of two: future Hall of Famer Adrian Peterson and 49ers rookie Elijah Mitchell. That Peterson, who accidentally named Williams when he was a freshman at the University of Oklahoma, is one of those names is no surprise.

That Mitchell, listed at 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, is the other, probably is.

“Elijah did not say to me, but he certainly put one in the back of me, and it made me turn around and say, ‘Who the hell was that?'” Williams said. “I thought, ‘Damn, is that how they feel when they have to tackle him?’ I can tell you why he breaks so many tackles. “

Williams’ reaction to colliding with Mitchell in the first quarter of a Oct. 31 victory over the Chicago Bears undoubtedly reflects the feelings of opposing defenders. They probably had no idea who Mitchell was before the season, but are now well aware of the Niners’ latest award-winning runner.

It is no coincidence that the 49ers’ three-game winning streak coincided with a resurgence in their running game. During that stretch, the Niners have their highest rushing yardage total of the season – 156, 171 and 208, at an average of 178 per game. match, up from the 113 they had on average during the first eight matches. The physical dominance has allowed the Niners to become the first team since the Baltimore Ravens 2018-19 with an average 37-plus minute possession in three games in a row.

Despite missing the Jacksonville game on November 21 due to a broken finger, it’s Mitchell who has been at the center of it all, offering a mix of expected speed and surprising power, even when he has played through a variety of injuries.

“I just feel like Elijah is an all-around back,” said receiver Deebo Samuel. “He can play as if he weighs 240 pounds and he runs like 190 pounds. You have the speed, he has the physique and he has the mindset. He’s just a great overall back.”

In fact, Mitchell is pursuing a case as the most successful rookie running back in franchise history. Through 11 games, he is number 10 in the NFL in rushing yards (693), third in rushing yards per. match (86.6) and ninth in yards per carry among running backs (4.85). Despite having played in just eight games, Mitchell has more than 100 yards in half of them and surpasses Billy Kilmer for most of that kind of performance by a rookie in franchise history.

A rookie or unheralded back who makes an impression has been common around the 49ers and other Kyle Shanahan-trained teams for more than two decades. While the easy assumption was that Trey Sermon of Ohio State would be the one to do it in the third round, it was Mitchell, taken in the sixth round of the University of Louisiana, who made an early impression on Shanahan and his staff, which gave him the starting job after veteran Raheem Mostert was lost for the season due to a knee injury.

Mitchell ran a 4.33 40-yard dash on his professional day, but Shanahan said he could see early glimpses that Mitchell was more than just a speed-burner. During the early days of training camp, Shanahan and offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel noticed Mitchell’s ability to see the entire field, make quick, emphatic decisions, and hit the hole at full speed.

“There are some things in his game that the more he plays, the more you realize he’s a special young player, and there’s a reason he’s productivity,” McDaniel said. “You would have no chance of knowing it. Even the grain Louisiana-Lafayette tape would not tell you that.”

What was not necessarily expected was Mitchell’s physical level. One thing Shanahan and his coaching staff harp on is what linebacker Fred Warner calls “leaky yards,” which are the extra wins that come after a runner has apparently stopped his progress.

On several occasions this year, Shanahan has called Mitchell, seen him being piled up by defenders and turned to his playing sheet for his next call, thinking it was second-and-10, only to be told by assistant coaches on the headset it is not the case.

“I start looking down and thinking about what I’m calling now, and then people in the box tell me it’s second-and-6,” Shanahan said. “I do not quite believe in them, because I saw that he was going down, and I do not understand that he fell forward and got four yards. When it’s like he does all the time now, then you keep on, it helps you keep doing it. “

In fact, Mitchell is establishing itself as a different kind of YAC Bridge. According to Pro Football Focus, Mitchell averages 3.84 yards per game. carry after first contact, which is number two in the NFL and a strong addition to yards after catch provided by Samuel, receiver Brandon Aiyuk and tight-end George Kittle.

According to Shanahan, the innate ability is as much a mental gift as a physical one. Which raises the question: Where does it come from?

Mitchell was a two-star recruit who came out of Erath (Louisiana) High, and injuries during his senior season left him with few scholarship offers. He entered the NFL in a similar way as a relative unknown with little in the way of outside expectations.

But these weaknesses, whether real or perceived, are now felt by defenders – and sometimes his teammates – every time Mitchell touches the ball.

“It’s just a different mindset on the field,” Mitchell said. “The one who’s in my way, I’m just trying to run the ball and run over him. If anything, I’m running past him. So it’s just a mindset I have and I will continue to have that.”

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