When Elijah Mitchell took the field for the San Francisco 49ers in Week 10, Kyle Shanahan’s squad was in a very different place than the last time he took the field. Facing off against the Los Angeles Chargers in an all-California showdown, Mitchell’s first game back from a nine-week stint on injury reserve featured a new, old quarterback under center in Jimmy Garoppolo, a defensive line without both of their Week 1 starting defensive tackles, and a brand new starting running back in Christian McCaffrey, who was acquired before Week 7.
With a new role defined as the Niners’ RB2 in place of Jeff Wilson, who was traded to the Miami Dolphins and his former offensive coordinator, Mike McDaniel, fans wondered what Mitchell’s role would look like behind McCaffrey? Would he split carries with the former Carolina Panther like Wilson in Week 7? Or would Mitchell instead find himself playing a very limited role like the four-carry performance Wilson was handed in Week 9? Fortunately for the second-year rusher out of Louisiana, he was able to pick up right where he left off without missing a step.
Though he didn’t technically start for the 49ers, that role will belong to McCaffrey whenever he is healthy from this point forward, Mitchell surprisingly finished out the winning contest with 18 carries for 89 yards despite only playing 35 percent of his team’s offensive snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. Granted, part of the reason why Mitchell ended out the game with so many carries is because Shanahan decided to ride the hot hand at the end of the game and run out the clock with his backup rusher at the trigger of the offense, but for fans, especially fantasy football players, who were hoping to see McCaffrey run the show as a Carolina-esque offensive weapon, it looks like the 49ers’ offense will continue to pass the ball around to all of their offensive weapons.
Christian McCaffrey Is Still A Fantasy Football RB1
After watching McCaffrey finish out the 49ers’ Week 10 game with just 77 all-purpose yards, some fantasy football fans took to social media to declare that San Francisco was ruining the collegiate Stanford Cardinal’s upside.
Is McCaffrey’s time as an RB1 officially over? Not according to Eric Moody, a fantasy football writer for ESPN, who explained how McCaffrey should be viewed moving forward in his Daily Notes column.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise considering that the 49ers rank 10th in rushing attempts per game with 28.1. Mitchell gained 89 yards on 18 carries against the Chargers on Sunday, playing 33.8% of the team’s snaps. With just 14 attempts, McCaffrey saw his workload significantly reduced. McCaffrey should retain pass-catching duties in the 49ers’ offense (he had six targets against the Chargers). Even if McCaffrey does not receive over 20 touches per game, anywhere between 15 to 20 is realistic, and he can still be viewed as an RB1 in fantasy football.
Shanahan Explains How The San Francisco 49ers Will Use Mitchell
When asked about how the 49ers will use Mitchell moving forward now that he is healthy and McCaffrey is on the team, Shanahan explained that splitting the carries up between his backs might be the best way to keep the duo fresh through the second half of the 2022 NFL season, as transcribed by NBC Sports Bay Area.
“That kind of was our goal before the game started, was to have a goal to have about even carries [between McCaffrey and Mitchell], but you never know how the game goes,” Shanahan said. “And then at the end there when we were just trying to hammer it down, we were just feeling [Mitchell], so we kept him out there.”
“We have a real good back in Elijah, we know we just brought in a real good one with Christian, and it’s nice to kind of make those guys a one-two punch and keep Deebo as the bonus. But I feel both of those guys need another guy to help them, and it’s good that it doesn’t always have to be a receiver.”
Could fans eventually see the day where McCaffrey, Mitchell, and Samuel all share the field together in a “pick your poison” offensive attack? Potentially so, but for now, it looks like Shanahan’s main goal is to figure out his offensive snap count first before figuring out how to add even more wrinkles to his already complex offensive game plan.