Carthon explains why 49ers pivoted to draft Mitchell in '21

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The 49ers nearly passed on a player that was instrumental to their success throughout the 2021 NFL season. 

In his introductory press conference as general manager of the Tennessee Titans on Friday, former 49ers director of player personnel Ran Carthon provided an interesting anecdote on how analytics swayed San Francisco into selecting running back Elijah Mitchell with the No. 194 pick in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft. 

"Demitrius Washington, he's the [vice president of football operations] for Minnesota, he ran our analytics department after [Kwesi Adofo-Mensah] left. He does his metrics to find all his guys," Carthon said. "So he comes to me, he has a running back and he's like 'My numbers are telling me this is the best outside zone running back in the draft.' He was like 'But I'm not walking in there with Kyle [Shanahan] with just this paper to say that. Can you watch this guy and confirm what the tape saw?'

"I watched the tape, that was my first exposure to the player and I agreed with him. And then that player ended up being Elijah Mitchell, that we took in the sixth round. Which, (in 2021) if we don't have Elijah, we don't go on the run that we went on."

Selecting Mitchell was a collaborative effort for the 49ers and the Louisiana product's tape was so impressive that it even swayed former 49ers defensive coordinator DeMeco Ryans from the team's original plan to select a linebacker with the pick. 

"And even added to that story, DeMeco Ryans, it was his first year as [defensive coordinator] and that round, that pick was going to be his linebacker," Carthon added. "And DeMeco, he came in the draft room and Elijah's tape was on and he was watching Elijah and he called Johnny Holland, our linebacker coach up and was like 'Coach, this running back is better than the linebacker we're going to pick' and so we shifted from taking a linebacker to taking Elijah. And it just shows to the kind of collaboration of how that whole operation worked."

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It's unknown which linebacker the 49ers initially were targeting, but given the success Mitchell has had on the field for the 49ers, it's clear that the front office made the correct choice.

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