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Elijah Mitchell's roster spot could be in jeopardy

Life comes at you fast in the NFL. For running backs like Eliljah Mitchell, doubly so.

Two years ago he needed just 10 games to break the 49ers rookie rushing record - a mark that had stood for 50 (!) years. In what has become a recurring theme throughout his career, however, Michell was only able to play one more game that season.

In 2022, things got even worse. Hamstring and knee issues allowed him to suit up for just five games, including only one start. The 49ers decided they couldn't wait for him to get healthy, traded four draft picks to the Panthers for Christian McCaffrey, and the rest is history.

The story could be repeating itself this year. Mitchell already sat out minicamp for what the team is calling precautionary reasons. Mind you, Elijah hasn't played in a game since the playoff victory over the Cowboys at the end of January.

On today's Bully Ball podcast, Steph Sanchez and Jason Aponte wondered if Mitchell's days on the 49ers could soon be coming to an end.

Jason: When Anthony Lynn spoke about the running backs, he spoke about, 'We can't have any sort of change in the offense when McCaffrey is on the sideline. We're gonna throw the ball to the running backs.' He said Jordan Mason, he said everybody except Elijah Mitchell. It's about the availability.
And you know what else is funny about what Anthony Lynn said? Last season when he spoke about the running backs, the one person he never spoke about was Trey Sermon, and Trey Sermon got cut.
Steph: Even if his absence was [precautionary], it's the principle. The fact that we have this concern with Elijah Mitchell already in his first two years, for him to already be hurt - even if it's minor - it doesn't give us any confidence that something changed this offseason with Elijah Mitchell that he can suddenly stay healthy. This is certainly not a sign of that, and I think that's the bigger concern.

For the record, Steph preferred the 49ers simply demote Mitchell to third on the depth chart rather than cut or trade him, and that might be the smarter move. After all, what exactly will the market be for a running back that has missed 53% of his games since coming into the NFL?

Even third might be a stretch, honestly. While McCaffrey is firmly entrenched as the starter, Jordan Mason made quite a case for himself to be the backup last season.

Beyond Mason, Ty Davis-Price is likely fighting to keep his own roster spot after a disappointing rookie year, and undrafted runners like Khalan Laborn, Ronald Awatt, and Jack Colletto are going to get their shot as well.

Elijah Mitchell can be a very effective player when he is on the field, but you've got to be on that field for more than just 16 games in two seasons. His talent will of course buy him some patience from the front office - but not too much more.

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