After a sensational breakout season, Elijah Mitchell comes into the 2022 NFL season as a hot name in the dynasty fantasy football community as many wonder if he can replicate his success. As the NFL Draft approaches and dynasty drafts continue to fire off, what is Mitchells’ outlook for dynasty in the 2022 season?
Elijah Mitchell’s dynasty profile for 2022
Draft capital is important. Don’t let anyone tell you any different. However, it is not the be-all-end-all when determining whether or not a player can succeed. It traditionally just means, given the investment, players with higher draft capital get a longer leash and are afforded more opportunities. With that said, scheme fit is even more important and makes the difference.
While everyone was focused on Trey Sermon, sixth-round pick Mitchell was the player to watch. Sermon had the flashy end of the season for Ohio State, but from a scheme fit, Mitchell was the better asset and proved it.
Mitchell leapfrogged Sermon in training camp, and due to a season-ending injury to Raheem Mostert, secured one of the most valuable roles in all of dynasty — RB1 for the 49ers. In Week 1, Mitchell exploded with 19 rush attempts for 104 yards and a touchdown. He was an instant steal for where he went in rookie drafts and the best waiver wire claim of the season.
Playing in 11 games, Mitchell rushed 207 times for 963 yards (4.7 ypc) with 5 touchdowns. Of those 963 yards, 765 came after contact, as Mitchell’s blend of power, speed, and elusiveness allowed him to succeed. Mitchell ended the season as the No. 26 ranked RB in PPR scoring while averaging 13.8 PPR points per game (20th). In points per game among players who played at least eight games, he was the RB19.
What can hold Mitchell back in 2022?
I can sit here and go on for quite some time going over what Mitchell does well. However, that’s not going to do us any good. I feel the majority are undervaluing Mitchell. In my eyes is, he’s an RB2 with RB1 upside, but the concerns of Sermon’s draft capital are keeping folks from buying all the way in on Mitchell. Yet, Sermon’s not one of my concerns.
For one, Mitchell needs more involvement in the passing game to take the next step and go from a solid fantasy starter to an elite option. In 2021, he hauled in 19 of 20 targets for 137 yards and a single touchdown in his 11 games played. While this is by no means terrible, averaging less than 2 targets per game is very much on the lower end of the scale.
The move to Trey Lance had both pros and cons for Mitchell
My second concern is the suspected change coming at quarterback. The move from Jimmy Garoppolo to Trey Lance is a seismic shift. For one, those checkdowns could turn into runs for Lance. In the two games where Lance started, he targeted his backfield 17.3% of the time.
Kyle Juszczyk dominated those targets, getting 11.5% of them. That also means we should expect to see more designed carries by Lance. In his two starts last season, Lance had 24 rushes compared to 32 by the running backs.
Given Kyle Shanahan will have an entire season to work on this new-look offense, I’m excited for Mitchell. The addition of Lance brings an extra dynamic to the offense, which could help free up Mitchell. Not to mention defenses still have Deebo Samuel, George Kittle, and Brandon Aiyuk to contend with as well.
This could very well be one of the most dynamic offenses in the league and one that runs at a breakneck pace. Knowing the potential of this offense and how much the rushing game means to Shanahan, Micthell should have no issues duplicating his success and cementing his dynasty value in 2022.
Fantasy projection for Mitchell
Mitchell is a high-volume player. In 11 of his 14 games in 2021 (including playoffs), Mitchell recorded 17 or more rushes per contest. He crossed the 20-carry barrier six times. Shanahan was always viewed as a coach who used a committee, but I can’t help but wonder if Mitchell and his fit have changed that narrative.
Even if we do see a slight dip due to the introduction of Lance in the system, I still feel comfortable keeping Mitchell north of 15 carries a game. That alone would be a 255-attempt pace in 2022. Now, Mitchell does have to stay healthy even to sniff those numbers. That was a concern last season with Mitchell missing several games due to injuries.
Let’s say Mitchell doesn’t even see a boost in his passing volume. I believe it does increase, but for the sake of argument, let’s keep it static. Keeping his baseline at 1.8 targets, 1.7 receptions, and 12.5 yards paces out to 31 targets, 29 receptions, and 212 yards with 2 TDs. On a per-game basis, that is an additional 3.89 PPR points.
That’s nothing to scoff at. I feel it’s more likely we see Mitchell pushing the 40-target range in Year 2. That would have him in the same range as Joe Mixon, Dalvin Cook, and Tony Pollard. I see Mitchell putting together another sensational season for dynasty managers in 2022. He remains a value based on his perceived outlook. I understand if you are concerned about Sermon taking his job and Mitchell busting. At the same time, I’m not in that camp.