Immediately after the San Francisco 49ers‘ Week 12 shutout win over the New Orleans Saints, Kyle Shanahan was optimistic that Elijah Mitchell, his former lead back-turned-RB2 behind Christian McCaffrey, would avoid missing significant time following an apparent knee injury suffered during the game.
Unfortunately, according to Matt Barrows of The Athletic, that does not appear to be the case, as the team now expects their 2021 sixth-round pick to potentially miss the rest of the regular season.
“49ers hoped to avoid a long-term knee injury with Elijah Mitchell. They didn’t,” Barrows tweeted. “Mitchell is expected to miss 6-8 week, per Kyle Shanahan. Meanwhile, the 49ers will manage Christian McCaffrey’s ‘knee irritation’ during the week.”
This knee injury marks Mitchell’s second significant injury of the season after going down with an MCL strain in Week 1 that landed him on IR for the better part of two months. If this injury does, in fact, hold a six-to-eight-week recovery window, it could land Mitchell on IR once more, marking his second stint on the list this year. Fortunately, if Mitchell’s injury falls on the lighter side of the recovery window, he could theoretically play in the Wildcard round of the playoffs, with the NFC Championship in play if his recovery takes a full eight weeks.
Some Fans Are Retroactively Angry About the Jeff Wilson Trade
When the 49ers traded away Jeff Wilson, the deal was more or less universally lauded. While it’s never fun to say goodbye to a fan favorite, especially one who spent the entire “Kyle Shanahan era” with the team, with McCaffrey in place as RB1 and Mitchell expected to return after the Bye week, turning an impending free agent initially acquired as an undrafted free agent into a fifth-round pick was widely viewed as a great value deal by John Lynch.
But now that Mitchell is likely to miss the majority of the remaining season, even if San Francisco makes it deep into the playoffs, that goodwill has started to sour.
In the comments of Barrow’s initial tweet, multiple commenters complained that a future fifth-round pick isn’t going to pick up three yards on second down to set Jimmy Garoppolo up for a manageable third down, let alone take on a more expansive role should McCaffrey’s knee aggregate him further.
Fortunately for these fans, they won’t have to wait long to see Wilson once more, as he’ll be back at Levi Stadium this weekend. Unfortunately, he’ll be on the field with the Miami Dolphins instead.
The 49ers Drafted Tyrion Davis-Price for a Reason
With Mitchell on the shelf and Wilson on the Dolphins, the 49ers will have to re-jigger their depth chart for the umpteenth time this season to optimize the healthy players they have left. Fortunately, one of those players is Tyrion Davis-Price, the former lead rusher at LSU who Lynch decided to draft in the third round of the 2022 NFL draft.
Though TDP wasn’t as highly touted as Breece Hall or Kenneth Walker III coming out of college, he was lauded for his combination of size, strength, and speed, as Lance Zierlein detailed in his draft profile.
Big, athletic back offering an enticing blend of size and explosiveness to go with an SEC pedigree. Davis-Price’s early season tape was listless and lacking pro quality, but that changed over the second half of the year. He’s an enigmatic back featuring urgency, indecisiveness, physicality and finesse on any given carry. He got much better as the season progressed and clearly finds a rhythm when given volume carries. Scouts say that staying motivated will be a major factor in future success. Davis-Price’s athletic ability and hammerhead finishes will help him create yardage. He has the size and upside worthy of consideration in the middle rounds.
While only time will tell if Davis-Price is able to pick up where Wilson left off on early downs, he did beat out 2021 third-round pick Trey Sermon for a spot on the 53-man roster and could theoretically slot right into the spot Mitchell now leaves open following his injury. If, however, the 49ers want to go with a more proven commodity in their offensive backfield, then they may opt to instead elevate Tevin Coleman off of their practice squad onto the main roster. Coleman did amass 67 yards and two touchdowns for the Niners in back Week 5 and could probably fill a similar role moving forward if need be.