Updated: Apr 2
By Adam Aniba
This year's running back class features the most productive backs in college football this decade with Texas RB Bijan Robinson. The Longhorns running back is expected to be selected in round 1, but after Robinson, Day 3 is where the majority of the other RB's will be selected.
East Carolina's Keaton Mitchell was the top RB in the AAC last season and one of the best in the nation. Although slotted as a 5th round prospect, he'll get the chance to refine his game on the next level and build off what he accomplished as ECU.
5'8" 179 lbs | RB | ECU
Proj Late 5th-6th Rd
Career (33 Games)- 463 rush att for 3,027 yds & 14 TDs (6.5 yds per carry)
*Receiving- 60 rec for 580 yds 3 TDs (6.9 per rec)
*Kick Return-12 ret for 234 yds (19.5 yds per ret)
'22 Stats (12 Games)- 201 rush att for 1,452 yds & 14 TDs (7.2 yds per carry)
*Receiving- 27 rec for 252 yds 1 TD (7.5 per rec)
*Kick Return-5 ret for 133 yds (26.6 yds per ret)
Mitchell grew up in McDonough, GA and attended Eagles Landing Christian HS (ELC). He lettered in football at running back and track & field. Some of his accomplishments in track featured a 10.99 second time in 100-meter dash, 22.42 seconds in the 200 -meter dash and broke program records in the 4x100 meter relay team.
Mitchell's speed and athleticism certainly translated to the football field for ELC. He rushed for 4,347 yards (155.3 ypg) and 88 touchdowns in his final two seasons. In '19 the RB led his team to the Georgia State Title (13- oveall/6-1 in division). He finished the game with 192 total yards and 4 touchdowns in the 33-13 victory over Wesleyan Christian.
Mitchell was named Class A Region 5 Player-of-the-Year by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and finished his career at ELC with 4 straight Georgia Class A Private championships and a 54-2 record (27-1 region).
After RIvals.com and ESPN named Mitchell a 3-star prospect, he received offers from Colorado State, Florida Atlantic, Georgia Southern, Nebraska, USF, Temple, West Virginia and Eastern Carolina. Mitchell ultimately committed to accept ECU's offer and play for the Pirates.
In a COVID shortened '20 season, Mitchell started 2 of 9 games as a true freshman and rushed for 100+ yards twice vs #7 Cincinnati (12/4) and Memphis (10/3). When he faced Cincinnati, Mitchell had a career high with 124 yards on 4 of 17 rushes (4 rushes 14+ yards). Mitchell was named AAC Co-Rookie-of-the-Year.
In '21 the ECU running back didn't miss a game as a starter and led the AAC in total rushing yards with 1,132 and all-purpose yards per game (115.83).
Mitchell displayed his big play ability with an 88 yard run for a touchdown vs Marshall and a 63-yard touchdown reception vs Appalachian State (both career highs). Mitchell finished the season with 23 total TDs leading to 1st-Team All-AAC honors.
During his final season at ECU, he ran for a career best 1,325 yards with a 7.4 ypc average and 13 TDs, with zero fumbles in 2022. As a receiver, he recorded 25 receptions for 235 yards a 7.5 ypc average.
Mitchell was one of college footballs hidden gems in '22 and least talked about big play offensive threats, leading all in the FBS with 54 runs of 10-plus yards. Of his 262 career run attempts, 95% of the attempts whent for 5 yards or more (28 att for 14+ yards). In addition, 12 of his career receptions went for 10+ yards (5 rec for 20+yards).
During the NFL combine Mitchell ran a blazing 4.37 second forty yard dash, recorded a 1.48 second 10-Yard Split time, 38" vertical leap measured and a 10'6" broad jump.
Impressive pass catcher that can run every route
Big play threat that displays the shiftiness needed to have success on the next level
Low pad level and elusiveness make it difficult to wrap up
Very fast with an explosive initial burst, displays an effective jumpcut
Although thrived when utilized on outside zone runs, has the ability to run between the tackles and attack even the smallest holes
Undersized for the position, which could limit opportunities on offense early on
Ability to chip block and as an overall blocker is probably his biggest weakness
Will need to add some mass on the next level for the NFL grind
Too often goes down after initial contact (tripped up too often)
Dealt with concentration issues at times with untimely drops
Mitchell was one of the most productive big play threats in the nation in '22, but has been pigeonholed as a gadget/change up back.
Although the ECU running back can be used in a variety of ways, make no mistake, when a big play was needed Mitchell was leaned on.
He was a key cog in the Pirates offense, thus wasn't utilized often in the return game, but instantly adds a spark as a returner on the next level (19.5 yards per KR).
The draft boasts decent mid-late round talent at running back, but the team that selects Mitchell on Day 3 could get the steal of the draft.
*Games Played- 9/3/22 vs NC ST., 9/24 vs Navy, 10/8 vs Tulane, 10/15 vs Memphis, 11/11 vs Cincinnati & 11/16 vs Temple
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