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Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

5 things to know about new 49ers running back Elijah Mitchell

May 1, 2021 at 4:08 PM--

The 49ers used their final pick in the 2021 NFL Draft (Round 6, pick 194) to add more running back talent to the roster in Elijah Mitchell of Louisiana. The selection may have been a bit of a surprise given the fact the 49ers drafted Ohio State running back Trey Sermon in Round 3 and also have three veterans of note on the roster in Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson, and Wayne Gallman.

But Mitchell (5-11, 215) is a fascinating addition to the 49ers and will be an interesting player to follow in the months ahead, as you're about to see.

Here are five facts to keep in mind as Mitchell begins his 49ers career.

* He can flat-out fly: If Trey Sermon had some people questioning him because of his 40 time (4.58), Mitchell is a case of the opposite. Mitchell has been clocked at 4.33 in the 40, which is faster than any running back invited to this year's Scouting Combine, according to Next Gen Stats.

It took some work for Mitchell to get to that point, but he was able to put his speed on display in top form during Louisiana's pro day. Mitchell had been aiming for a time of 4.4, according to the Lafayette Daily-Advertiser, but the work he put in ahead of his pro day allowed him to do better than that.

"I worked hard to get faster and I dropped a little weight also," Mitchell told reporters Saturday. All I know is I'm just ready to get in the open field and show everybody how I can run."

* He can do a lot but needs work on pass blocking: The Daily Advertiser listed pass blocking as something Mitchell would need to improve upon, quoting Louisiana coach Billy Napier as saying he "probably will have to adjust at the next level from a protection standpoint."

But past that, Mitchell can be a threat as both a runner and a pass-catcher, and he's itching to get the chance to show what he can do.

"I love running between the tackles," Mitchell said Saturday. "I can do that well. I can run outside zone, and once I get to the secondary, I can go the distance. So I'm excited about it and they run the ball a lot. I'm excited about the opportunity and I'm ready to go to work."

* He has some strong motivation: When Mitchell gets to the Bay Area, he'll have a major motivating factor in front of him that will push him to make the team. Mitchell is a father of two, which will surely drive him as he gets his NFL career underway.

"When they had a child, that really motivated them a lot. Because they have a family to feed," Louisiana running back Chris Smith said of Mitchell and fellow running back Trey Ragas, according to the Daily Advertiser. "They've just got to get out there and take care of business, make sure they've got their life planned out."

Mitchell will have his work cut out for him to find a place on the 49ers, but he's going to put his best foot forward.

"I'm going in there and I'm going to work hard, and whatever happens happens for me," Mitchell said. "I'm just ready to go in there and put the work in."

* He and Bobby Turner should work out well: Mitchell already raves about running backs coach Bobby Turner, who he had a chance to speak with during the predraft process.

"Coach is an awesome coach," Mitchell said. "Just from talking to him, I know that he coaches hard and he's into the little things of running-wise, running between the tackles, running outside zone. He's very all-in about it, as I can say, and I'm excited to be working with one of the great coaches in the league."

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch said Saturday that Turner had become a little frustrated with them in recent months because of how busy they've been, but adding a second running back in the draft should help make up for it.

"He keeps telling me how I've changed because I don't come down to his office much in the last month, and today he forgave me for it," Shanahan said. "I told him I've been working on some stuff, and he didn't believe that until he saw we got him two running backs, so he was very happy."

* He admires Alvin Kamara: Mitchell (3,267 yards, 41 touchdowns, 6.2 average in 42 games at Louisiana) has the potential to be a three-down back who can also be a game-breaking threat as a runner and receiver. It's not surprising that he looks up to another do-it-all back in New Orleans Saints star Alvin Kamara.

"He can catch the ball out of the backfield," Mitchell said. "He can make people miss. He can run in-between. He can do it all. I find myself being able to do that, and that's the person I look up to in the league."

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