49ers camp fights: Elijah Mitchell is no longer alone in running back

For three consecutive seasons, the 49ers were the leading runners who entered the NFL as uncredited free agents.

So it was a bit of a surprise in the 2021 NFL Draft when he invested 49 players in Ohio State’s third-round pick in a row with Trey Sermon.

The 49ers then picked Louisiana-Lafayette, who fell behind Elijah Mitchell in the sixth round, before using another option for this year’s third round on LSU who drops out Ty Davis-Price.

The influx of young contestants over the previous two drafts makes for an intriguing comeback competition, as coach Kyle Shanahan appears determined to spread more support from a panel.

Here’s how competition is shaping up:

Elijah Mitchell

When Raheem Mostert lost this season after holding the ball twice in the opener of the 2021 season, 49 players turned to Mitchell.

Mitchell put on a solid junior season, collecting 963 yards and five touchdowns while averaging 4.7 yards. He ran the ball anywhere from 21 to 27 times in each of the last five games of the regular season he played.

But there are legitimate concerns about Mitchell’s longevity. He missed six matches due to injuries.

In the postseason, Mitchell saw his average drop to just 3.1 yards trying. He underwent a “cleaning” of his knee after a season in which he lost some time to injuries to the shoulder, ribs, fingers and head.

Mitchell has proven that he can be a very good three-back. The only question was whether he could withstand this kind of harsh punishment.

Trey Sermon

Although the 49ers picked him up in the third round, Sermon wasn’t willing to contribute as a rookie. His most productive game came in Week 4 when he gained 89 yards in 19 rush attempts against the Seattle Seahawks.

The engagement did not make a smooth performance adjustment in the 49ers’ outside area chart. It was an inactive surprise in the first week, as Mitchell quickly passed him on the depth chart.

After an ankle injury he picked up on special teams in Week 11 against the Minnesota Vikings, Sermon didn’t step onto the field again for any offensive shots for the rest of his rookie season.

The 49 players showed off a knack for finding their own unknown and uncut back. The betrothed was someone they identified as a unique talent, making his inability to contribute as a novice baffling.

And if the club were truly pleased with Sermon’s development, it’s possible that they felt no need to opt for another comeback in the third round one year later.

Ty Davis Price

The 49ers had to realize when they drafted Davis-Price that he had the talent to make an immediate contribution.

Davis-Price has a good size (6 feet – 1, 219 pounds), athleticism and speed. He has not distinguished himself as a reliable passer, but he does have the skills to be a strong runner between tackles on a first and a second touchdown.

It may also be the closest thing to a short yardage that the 49ers have on their roster.

Davis Price will be in competition with Sermon and Jeff Wilson Jr. To join Mitchell as one of the top 49th quarterbacks.

Jeff Wilson Jr.

Wilson was absent from the first half of the season a year ago after undergoing surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee. When he got back to work, he was clearly lacking in blasting and didn’t show his usual running style.

He re-signed with the 49ers as a free agent and looked much healthier during the team’s off-season program.

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Wilson led the 49ers in the rush in 2020, taking 600 yards for an average of 4.8 yards with seven touchdowns. He is also the best off-field runner of the 49ers.

JaMycal Hesty

Hestey is facing a challenge this season to hold on to his role as a third-team relegator.

He made a hasty appearance in 11 games last season. Carry 16 times for 68 yards and landings. He also picked up 23 of 29 passes thrown his way for 157 yards.

Jordan Mason, a freshman undressed from Georgia Tech, will compete during bootcamp for a spot on the active roster or coaching squad.

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