Raheem Mostert missed half the 2020 NFL season with an ankle injury. Now, it appears he will miss half the 2021 season because of another leg injury.
Mostert carried the ball twice for 20 yards during the 49ers’ 41-33 win over the Lions in Week 1. After that, he exited the game and was initially ruled questionable to return with a knee injury. He was later ruled out.
49ers coach Kyle Shanahan announced Monday that Mostert had chipped cartilage in his knee. He will miss eight weeks and require surgery, per ESPN’s Nick Wagoner.
#49ers RB Raheem Mostert has chipped cartilage in his knee. He will go on IR. Kyle Shanahan said expectation is about eight weeks for Mostert to return.
— Nick Wagoner (@nwagoner) September 13, 2021
Mostert has played in 25 games with the 49ers over the past two-plus seasons. He has averaged a strong 5.4 yards per carry while also dealing with injuries.
Mostert is expected to be back near the midpoint of the season; what will the 49ers do until then? And which back will Shanahan rely on? Here’s what to know about how Mostert’s injury will impact the 49ers — and fantasy football owners.
How Raheem Mostert’s injury impacts Trey Sermon
The biggest beneficiary of Mostert’s injury figures to be Sermon. The third-round rookie was a surprise inactive for the 49ers in Week 1, but now it’s almost certain he will dress for Week 2 vs. the Eagles.
Sermon didn’t play in Week 1 because he carried less special teams value than Elijah Mitchell and JaMycal Hasty, but he operated as the 49ers’ No. 2 running back for most of the preseason. He is listed as the top backup behind Mostert on the 49ers’ depth chart.
Sermon logged 16 carries for 63 yards in the preseasons. He was a strong between-the-tackles runner in college and averaged 7.5 yards per carry in his final season at Ohio State. He totaled 524 rushing yards and three rushing TDs in his last two full games with Ohio State, against Northwestern in the Big Ten championship game and Clemson in the College Football Playoff.
Sermon averaged just 12 catches per season during his four-year college career, so the 49ers will likely look for him to just be a strong inside runner with Mostert out. He’s not as shifty or explosive as Mostert but can wear down defenses.
While Sermon should take Mostert’s spot in the rotation, it’s unclear whether he’ll become San Francisco’s top option or be the top backup given Mitchell’s strong Week 1 performance.
How Raheem Mostert’s injury impacts Elijah Mitchell
Mitchell was active ahead of Sermon in Week 1 and took advantage of Mostert’s absence. Mitchell shouldered the load against a weak Lions run defense with a game-high 19 carries. He rushed for 109 yards, with 38 of those coming on this touchdown run.
The sixth-round rookie looked explosive against Detroit. He also showed he is faster than Sermon. Mitchell clocked a 4.32-second time in the 40-yard dash at his pro day, while Sermon posted a 4.58 at his pro day. If Shanahan is looking for a player who’s closer to the shifty, speedy Mostert — who clocked a 4.32 in the 40 at his pro day — then Mitchell may be the better fit.
Shanahan may also choose to roll with the hot hand despite Sermon’s higher draft status. He and his father, Mike, have trusted little-known backs and sixth-round prospects like Alfred Morris and Terrell Davis in the past, with great results. Don’t be surprised if Mitchell gets as many, if not more, opportunities as Sermon.
FANTASY FOOTBALL: Best waiver wire pickups
Who is the 49ers handcuff to own in fantasy football?
If you can’t get Mitchell on the waiver wire, then Hasty is the top handcuff option. Hasty had just one carry against Detroit, but he turned it into a 3-yard touchdown. He also had a two-game stretch in 2021 where he totaled 104 scrimmage yards and a touchdown on 23 touches.
He could be a decent fill-in if Sermon or Mitchell has to miss time. Feel free to roster him if you need more depth, but don’t expect him to be a contributor right away. He’ll probably play more on special teams at first.
49ers’ RB depth chart
This is how the 49ers’ running back depth chart looks after Mostert’s injury. The order is fluid given Shanahan’s tendency to mix things up at running back.
* Practice squad player.
The race for the No. 1 job between Sermon and Mitchell is likely close after Week 1, but the 49ers’ official website lists Sermon ahead of Mitchell. Those two will play big roles in the run game moving forward.
It’s worth noting that San Francisco also has Jeff Wilson Jr. on the roster. He’s currently on the PUP list, however, so he’ll have to miss at least six games before he can be activated. Wilson led the 49ers with 600 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns in 2020.
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