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How 49ers rookie Mitchell kept fresh with part-time workload

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Running backs Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas were four-year players who shared the load at running back throughout their careers for the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

Their statistics nearly were identical. Ragas is a power back whose 40 time was unimpressive. Mitchell is explosive, which placed him higher on NFL draft boards.

The 49ers selected Mitchell in the sixth round of the 2021 NFL Draft, while Ragas landed a contract as an undrafted rookie with the Las Vegas Raiders.

Jim Nagy, the executive director of the Senior Bowl, said he thought Mitchell was worthy of a fourth-round draft pick. He believes the 49ers made a wise choice to pick up Mitchell, who would seem to have a lot of football ahead of him.

And the fact Mitchell shared touches with his teammate can be seen as only a positive.

“He was splitting carries,” Nagy said. “He doesn’t have all the wear-and-tear that a lot of these college backs do leaving college. But yet (he was) highly, highly productive in terms of yards and touchdowns.”

Mitchell finished his college career with 3,267 yards and 41 touchdowns on 527 rushing attempts. He caught 49 passes for 597 yards and five touchdowns.

Ragas' numbers? He gained 3,572 yards and 38 touchdowns on 596 carries. Ragas caught 49 passes for 427 yards and five touchdowns.

Although Mitchell averaged approximately one reception for every game of his college career, it’s his pass-catching skills that separate him from a lot of others at his position, Nagy said.

“What I love the most about Elijah are his hands,” said Nagy, a long-time NFL scout who now is responsible for building the rosters for the premier NFL draft showcase.


“He’s got incredibly natural hands out of the backfield. .  . You don’t see a lot of backs tracking the ball that far down the field. He has a three-down skillset. He can pass-protect. He’s big enough to do that. He can play in the kicking game.”

The 49ers had other positions of greater need with their final pick in the draft. After trading up in the third round to select Ohio State running back Trey Sermon, the 49ers came back to pick Mitchell at No. 194 overall.

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Mitchell joins a group of 49ers running backs that also includes Raheem Mostert, Jeff Wilson Jr., Wayne Gallman and JaMycal Hasty.

“He’s a really intriguing player,” Nagy said of Mitchell. “I’ll be interested to see how that whole running back room shakes out because they have a lot of good ones there.”

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