When the 49ers used their sixth-round pick on Elijah Mitchell, I jokingly suggested that we should all be keeping an eye on him. Kyle Shanahan’s track record with lightly regarded running backs, after all, is pretty stellar. With the first week of the season in the books, this is now looking a lot more possible.
Raheem Mostert today says he’s undergoing season-ending knee surgery. Mitchell in Week 1 moved ahead of Trey Sermon and JaMycal Hasty on the team’s depth chart. And he ran really well in his game, going over 100 yards, with a 38-yard touchdown burst.
The historical stuff is errie. Three times in the last 30 years, a running back selected in the sixth round has run for over 1,000 yards, and all of them have Shanahan fingerprints on them. Terrell Davis, most famously, in 1995. Mike Anderson in 2000. They both played for the Broncos, coached by Mike Shanahan. And Alfred Morris with Washington in 2012; Kyle Shanahan was the offensive coordinator of that team, with his dad as the head coach.
It’s early, but Mitchell is looking like he could be one of those guys. He fits their scheme, and the speed is impressive – he’s like a much faster version of Alfred Morris. He had a couple of plays in the final preseason game where the size/speed was eye catching, but he also had a couple of mental errors in that game, making me wonder if he’d play much at all this year.
I’m not ready to lock in on Mitchell as another Morris or Anderson. The 49ers have other viable backs who’ll get some work, including Sermon and Hasty. Jeff Wilson should be ready in about a month. But Mitchell looks like their top guy right now, making him the coveted waiver-wire prize in most leagues this week.
Below see the rushing numbers for the 13 lightly regarded running backs since 1995 who have run for over 800 yards. On this one, I’m setting to the side all players drafted in the first three rounds, showing instead only later-round picks and players who weren’t drafted at all. Of the 10 running backs who went over 1,000, the Shanahans have a stake in four of them.
(The stats here, by the way, show only rushing production – and yards or touchdowns generated on pass plays aren’t included.)
|UNHERALDED ROOKIE RUNNING BACKS|
|2012||Alfred Morris, Was.||6th||335||1,613||4.8||13|
|2000||Mike Anderson, Den.||6th||297||1,487||5.0||15|
|2016||Jordan Howard, Chi.||5th||252||1,313||5.2||6|
|1999||Olandis Gary, Den.||4th||276||1,159||4.2||7|
|1995||Terrell Davis, Den.||6th||237||1,117||4.7||7|
|2001||Dominic Rhodes, Ind.||FA||233||1,104||4.7||9|
|2020||James Robinson, Jac.||FA||240||1,070||4.5||7|
|2018||Phillip Lindsay, Den.||FA||192||1,037||5.4||9|
|2003||Domanick Williams, Hou.||4th||238||1,031||4.3||8|
|2010||LeGarrette Blount, T.B.||FA||201||1,007||5.0||6|
|2013||Zac Stacy, St.L.||5th||250||973||3.9||7|
|2015||Thomas Rawls, Sea.||FA||147||830||5.7||4|
|2012||Vick Ballard, Ind.||5th||211||814||3.9||2|
|1997||Fred Lane, Car.||FA||182||809||4.5||7|