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Fantasy Alert: 49ers Appear 'Determined' to Use Elijah Mitchell, RBs in Committee

Adam WellsJuly 22, 2022

Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

Fantasy players who are eternally frustrated by the way Kyle Shanahan uses his running backs should just avoid betting on anyone in the San Francisco 49ers backfield as you prepare for drafts.

Per Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area, Shanahan "appears determined to deploy more of a backs-by-committee approach" during the 2022 season.

Elijah Mitchell had a promising rookie season in 2021. He led all first-year players who had at least 100 carries in yards per attempt (4.7), ranked second in total rushing yards (963) and tied for second in rushing touchdowns (five).

Injuries were a problem for Mitchell. He missed six games during the regular season with a mix of knee, shoulder and rib ailments. The 24-year-old told reporters in April he had a "clean-up" surgical procedure on his knee during the offseason.

Dwain McFarland @dwainmcfarland

Right on cue. Evan called this one weeks ago.<br><br>Tyrion Davis-Price 📈📈📈 <a href="https://t.co/sUj2ezG0mH">https://t.co/sUj2ezG0mH</a>

Nathan Jahnke @PFF_NateJahnke

49ers already mix up the backfield with one back for 1st-2nd downs, and one for 3rd downs. Mixing it up even more gets us in a Patriots RBBC-like situation.

If anyone needs to know how volatile 49ers running backs are in fantasy, keep in mind one of them (Jeff Wilson Jr.) was a key figure in the feud between Joc Pederson of the San Francisco Giants and Tommy Pham of the Cincinnati Reds that hit a boiling point in May.

There were other reasons that Pham wound up slapping Pederson on the field prior to a game between the two teams, but Shanahan's use of running backs is often maddening for fantasy players.

Mitchell's performance last season, which included five 100-yard rushing games, would seem to be good enough to at least earn him the starting job going into 2022.

There was no indication Mitchell was going to be the No. 1 guy going into the 2021 campaign. In fact, most people assumed Trey Sermon was going to shoulder a heavy load because the 49ers traded up to select him in the third round.

Deebo Samuel also took on a significant role in the running game as last season went on. He was very effective in that role, racking up 365 yards and eight touchdowns on 59 carries.

It's unclear if Samuel will continue to be featured as a running back in 2022. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported in April, after Samuel requested a trade, that one reason he wanted to move on was because he was uncomfortable with how Shanahan used him last year.

While the 49ers didn't honor Samuel's trade request, Rapoport went on The Pat McAfee Show last month and said he thinks the team has told the All-Pro wideout it won't use him as a running back this season.

Pat McAfee @PatMcAfeeShow

"I think what the 49ers have done is told Deebo Samuel we are not gonna use you as a RB.. that could speak louder than a new contract" ~<a href="https://twitter.com/RapSheet?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@RapSheet</a><a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/PMSLive?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#PMSLive</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FTTB?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FTTB</a> <a href="https://t.co/gdbcpnY9ax">pic.twitter.com/gdbcpnY9ax</a>

Sermon only appeared in nine games and had a total of 41 carries. San Francisco added to its running back group during the draft by selecting Tyrion Davis-Price out of LSU in the third round (No. 93 overall).

NFL.com's Lance Zierlein did note that Davis-Price's skill set is "an enticing blend of size and explosiveness to go with an SEC pedigree" and noted his tape got better over the course of the 2021 season.

Shanahan's running scheme is so effective that it's hard to completely ignore 49ers running backs in fantasy. The 49ers have ranked in the top 12 in the NFL in rushing yards per game three times in the past four seasons.

The Niners could rely more on the run in 2022 than they have in previous years because of their quarterback situation. One reason Trey Lance is so enticing as a prospect is due to his running ability in this system.

San Francisco's depth chart features Mitchell, Davis-Price, Wilson, Sermon, JaMycal Hasty and Jordan Mason. Mitchell will likely be the No. 1 option, but Davis-Price could get on the field a lot if Shanahan likes what he can bring to the offense.

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