Jeff Wilson Fantasy Football Outlook Without Elijah Mitchell

Jeff Wilson Fantasy Football

Death, taxes, and the starting San Francisco 49ers running back going down to injury. 2021 breakout running back Elijah Mitchell suffered an MCL sprain in Week 2, meaning that longtime journeyman Jeff Wilson will take over starting duties. On paper, Kyle Shanahan’s starting running back is always good for fantasy football, but can Jeff Wilson capitalize on this opportunity?

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Fantasy Football: What to Expect From Jeff Wilson Without Elijah Mitchell

Jeff Wilson first entered the NFL back in 2018 but has never been anything more than a complementary piece of San Francisco’s backfield. The North Texas product only has one season with over 80 carries, so it’s fair to wonder if Kyle Shanahan will truly trust Wilson to handle a full workload. While Wilson might not be Shanahan’s ideal starter, the head coach doesn’t have much of a choice here.

Barring a trade or surprise signing, the San Francisco 49ers do not have anyone even remotely reliable in their backfield. Current backup Jordan Mason spends the vast majority of his time on special teams, and third-round pick Tyrion Davis-Price wasn’t even good enough to be active in Week 1. Much like Trey Sermon a season ago, Davis-Price had a terrible prospect profile and 2021 proved that Kyle Shanahan will not play someone based just on draft capital.

Jeff Wilson is clearly the best running back on the team, but he’s not necessarily the best runner. Deebo Samuel excelled in the wide back role last year, and Trey Lance is one of the most athletic quarterbacks in the league. Lance and Samuel combined for 21 of San Francisco’s 37 rushing attempts in Week 1, and that usage will probably hold steady throughout the season. Chances are, Wilson will earn roughly 35-40% of the rushing work with Samuel and Lance earning a collective 45-50%. Whatever is left will go to either Mason or Davis-Price.

Projecting Jeff Wilson’s Efficiency

Now that we’ve determined that Jeff Wilson will likely earn a modest amount of the workload, it’s time to determine what he’ll do with his opportunity. Kyle Shanahan is one of the best offensive minds in the league and, historically speaking, is able to get the most out of his starting running back, no matter who that starter actually is. Seeing as Wilson averaged 4.8 yards-per-carry in his lone season with over 80 carries (2020), it’s safe to assume that he will not be the exception to this rule.

Additionally, Wilson will have the benefit of operating alongside Trey Lance. It’s no secret that rushing quarterbacks make life easier for running backs, as defenses have to account for two ball carriers in the backfield. With this in mind, let’s assume that Wilson averages a healthy 4.7 yards-per-carry as San Francisco’s starting running back.

The bad news is that Wilson probably won’t see too much work in the passing game. Lance is an aggressive quarterback that prefers to take deep shots rather than check down to the running back. Wilson isn’t a natural pass-catcher in the first place, and Lance’s tendencies mean that we shouldn’t project Wilson for anything more than one or two catches a game.

Based on the earlier assumptions, Jeff Wilson will likely average 55-70 yards per game with one or two receptions for 10-15 yards. This is good for approximately 7.5-10.5 PPR points per game before accounting for touchdowns. Essentially, this means that Wilson is going to be a touchdown-dependent flex play, but nothing more.

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