Elijah Mitchell has been a pleasant surprise for the 49ers' running back room in 2021. Raheem Mostert and Trey Sermon were expected to be the bell cows for the 49ers' offense this season, but it instead has been Mitchell who has led the team in rushing through the first eight weeks.
49ers offensive coordinator Mike McDaniel spoke to the media Thursday, and told a great anecdote from Trent Williams about a comparison for Mitchell's powerful running style.
"You start in training camp and you're like, 'Wow, there's some stuff in practice when he's not getting tackled.' I remember talking to you guys about it over the summer, and you're like, 'Man, there might be something there,' and then getting in games. 'Wow, he hit the right hole again,'" McDaniel said. "I think Trent Williams said something to us this week, there was a play, it was probably the third run of the game in the first quarter, inside zone to the right. And it wasn't blocked premierly, so he had to just get downhill and he ran into Trent's back. And Trent was like, 'I haven't been hit that hard by a running back since [Tennessee Titans RB] Adrian Peterson.' So, there's some stuff to his game that the more he plays, the more you realize that he's a special young player and there's a reason why he's having productivity. You'd have no way of knowing. Even grainy Louisiana-Lafayette tape wouldn't tell you that."
That is high praise from Williams, who played alongside Peterson in 2018 with Washington.
Mitchell has rushed for 433 yards and three touchdowns, nearly 300 yards more than the next-closest 49er in Sermon. During the 49ers' win over the Chicago Bears last week, Mitchell was the back on the impressive touchdown run in which just about every member of the offense came up and helped push the rookie over the goal line.
The 49ers might have found a gem in the sixth round, and there doesn't seem to be any indication that Mitchell's workload will be lessening as the second half of the season rolls on.