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Elijah Mitchell, Jeff Wilson, or Trey Sermon: Which 49ers RB should you start in Week 12?

What will the San Francisco rushing attack of Elijah Mitchell, Jeff Wilson, Trey Sermon, and even Deebo Samuel look like in Week 12?

I have the unenviable task of providing advice about the San Francisco 49ers’ backfield, which isn’t something I would wish on anyone. But anyway, here we are. Welcome to my fantasy football nightmare. Elijah Mitchell is questionable with a broken finger, Jeff Wilson Jr. was underwhelming last week, and Trey Sermon exists — what should fantasy managers do?

Update 11/28/2021: Elijah Mitchell is officially active for today’s game against the Minnesota Vikings.

Is there any way to predict this San Francisco backfield this week?

No. Here’s the thing — when Mitchell is healthy, he has proven to be the lead back in this backfield. The usage is predictable. We could rely on that through the first part of the season. Sermon hasn’t been utilized hardly in any way while Mitchell is healthy, and Wilson wasn’t active before Week 10.

We no longer live in that reality, at least not in Week 12. Hopefully, we’ll get back to normal soon. The 49ers activated Wilson, and Mitchell is dealing with a broken finger.

Last week, with Mitchell out, Wilson led the backfield in carries, which was predictable. I recommended Wilson everywhere, which didn’t pan out at all. Wilson had 19 carries (good!) for 50 yards (bad!) while only seeing 1 reception for 8 yards. Sermon got some extra run, seeing 10 carries for 32 yards, adding a 23-yard reception to the mix as well.

And then WR Deebo Samuel decided to show up and get utilized out of the backfield because Kyle Shanahan hates predictability. Samuel had 8 carries for 79 yards and a TD and legitimately looked like the most explosive option Shanahan has at his disposal.

How will Elijah Mitchell be used in Week 12?

Reports state that Mitchell is legitimately questionable for this game and has a chance to play. Shanahan indicated yesterday that Mitchell could do everything in practice, other than the fact that they didn’t let him take any hits.

This is going to come down to pain management and if they feel they can adequately protect his hand.

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This can go in so many directions. If Mitchell plays, it’s possible he sees a full workload, rushes 20 times, and fantasy managers rejoice. It’s also possible he gets 8 carries, Samuel continues to see rushing work since he’s been so effective, and no RBs in this backfield are fantasy-relevant.

It’s also possible that Mitchell will miss another game, in which case, it would be easier to predict the production out of San Francisco. Wilson’s underwhelming and inefficient performance has not been the norm over the last couple of years. Wilson was the lead back last year after Raheem Mostert went down with an injury and performed well. From Weeks 13-16 in 2020, Wilson was the RB12.

Week 12 fantasy outlook for Mitchell, Jeff Wilson, and Trey Sermon

If I had to make a prediction (which is pretty much what I’m paid to do), I would guess that Wilson leads this backfield in carries in Week 12, whether or not Mitchell plays. It’s hard to imagine that Mitchell — who hasn’t taken a hit in practice all week — would be given a heavy workload and be subjected to taking a blow that could set him back.

Wilson has the trust (I think) of Shanahan, as evidenced by the 19 carries he received last week — although he did fumble once.

If Mitchell plays, I would look elsewhere for fantasy purposes this week. Wilson is an RB2 for me against the Vikings, and Sermon isn’t fantasy-viable at this point. Of course, with Shanahan at the helm, none of this could come to fruition. Best of luck!

Jon Helmkamp is a fantasy football and NFL contributor for Pro Football Network. You can find him on Twitter: @JonHelmkamp and find more of his work here. Don’t forget to listen to the PFN Fantasy Football podcast and check out our free fantasy newsletter.

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