Keaton Mitchell draft profile

If you're interested in the Rams adding a RB in this year's draft, this is probably the most important fanpost I'll write this year. East Carolina running back, Keaton Mitchell, might be the best RB in the entire draft. Or, he might go completely undrafted. Maybe both of those things will happen. He's such an unconventional prospect. The best way I can describe him is to say that he's a poor man's Barry Sanders, in both the positive and negative ways.

One snap, he'll run backwards, giving up ground behind the LOS, or he'll come to a complete jump stop in the hole when he sees a defender and you'll think "Where does he think he's going? Why is he going the wrong way? Is he afraid of catching the cold from someone at the line of scrimmage?" The next play, he'll bust out on a long run and you'll think "Man, that guy is simply on a different level than all the defenders chasing him, they can't handle him."

Before anyone asks, Mitchell isn't Chris Johnson, who also played at East Carolina. Johnson is bigger, ran 4.24 seconds at the Combine, was a 1st round pick in 2008 and has a different type of running style. Don't get crazy with trying to get trademarks on KM2K just yet.

Bijan Robinson is a prototypical RB, he fits the mold pro scouts look for in an NFL back. Jahmyr Gibbs has the speed and receiving skills that are perfect for the modern NFL, he's a chess piece that perfectly fits within today's pro offensive schemes. Keaton Mitchell is a wrench in the system, he's a square peg in a round hole. If a GM drafted him, one OC might say "Great! I love this player. Excellent pick" but another OC might complain "What am I supposed to do with this guy? He doesn't fit our scheme and I'm not going to change our entire offense just so we can hand him the ball 25 times a game and watch him dance around like Fred Astaire. I hate this draft."

On the surface, Mitchell resembles just another small scat back. He's smaller than Tyjae Spears, who came in at the Senior Bowl at 5'9 1/2'' tall and 204 pounds. He might measure closer in size to Javian Hawkins, who at his pro day was 5'8 1/8'' tall and 183 pounds, running a 4.46 second 40 time. Hawkins was an UDFA in 2021, spent much of that year on the Rams PS, and is now in the CFL. At first blush, you might assume Mitchell will follow exactly the same path as Hawkins, that he's another small RB who belongs among the UDFA ranks and likely will bounce out of the NFL or be a fringe roster player.

That's not how I see it. Chris Thompson was a 5'7'' tall and 192 pound RB out of FSU, with 4.42 second speed, who was taken in the 5th round in 2013. He tore his ACL his final season in college. He was benched for poor KR and PR decisions as a rookie, then waived and spent most of his 2nd season on the practice squad. His 3rd year, with Sean McVay as the OC, he led all the RBs on Washington's roster in receptions. His best seasons came in years 4 and 5, including a big performance against the Rams in 2017, but he also broke his leg that season. In my estimation, there is no comparison at all between Thompson and Mitchell, I think Mitchell is a way better prospect. The only thing they have in common is they are both small RBs.

In 2019, I thought Devin Singletary was a better RB prospect than Hendo. Singletary has been the starter for the Bills, has averaged 4.7 yards per carry, has a very poor fumble rate and very high rate of dropped passes. He's also estimated to merit over $5 million per year in the upcoming free agent market. Hendo is currently a street free agent, not on an NFL roster. Blake Corum is a small RB who elected to stay at Michigan and not enter the 2023 draft. Most experts had Corum as a 2nd to 4th round prospect if he had entered the draft. If Mitchell, Singletary and Corum were all in the same draft, I'm not sure which of the 3 I'd put at the top. Blake Corum is supposed to be fast, but honestly after watching them back to back, I feel that Mitchell might be faster than Corum. Singletary isn't a fast guy, he only ran 4.66 seconds in the 40.

Despite all the frustrating and negative parts of Mitchell's game, he still merits legitimate consideration as a Day 2 selection. On many draft boards, Mitchell isn't currently listed at all. One has him ranked in the late 6th round area. Another one has him as a priority UDFA. On the board where he's ranked the highest, he's a 4th round pick.

It is time to wake up on this draft sleeper. We've seen many late round and UDFA RBs over the years become stars in the NFL. There are valid reasons to not draft this player. He has a concerning concussion history that makes me nervous. He has a very bad habit of trying to bounce every run outside. Still, his ceiling is very high. His raw talent is really good. I'm higher on this player than any of the draft boards have him ranked and that's not something that happens very often when I do these fanposts.


Name: Keaton Mitchell. 21 years old. Early entrant, true junior.

School: East Carolina. Studied sport studies.

Size: Listed 5'9'' tall, 184 pounds. Sports Illustrated has his estimated 40 time as 4.35 seconds. This isn't a "real" time in the sense that it didn't come from the Combine, but he's the fastest RB out of all 70 RBs on their list, faster than Bijan, faster than Gibbs, faster than Deuce Vaughn. They have Blake Corum at 4.35 seconds for the 2024 draft, exactly the same speed as Mitchell. Regardless of how fast they run in shorts, Mitchell's speed on the football field is legit.

From Georgia. Was sprinter in high school. Hand timed (meaning completely unreliable, but in this case possibly 100% true) 4.3 seconds in 40 in high school. His dad is former NFL safety, Anthony Mitchell, a 1999 UDFA with the Ravens. Jeff Fisher had a very powerful 2000 Titans team that was 13-3, but they got knocked out of the playoffs in the divisional round in a bizarre game where the Ravens scored both defensive and a special teams TDs in the 4th quarter. The pivotal play was a blocked FG that Mitchell returned 90 yards for a TD, giving the Ravens the lead. The Ravens would go on to beat the Giants in the Super Bowl.

Keaton Mitchell shared time in the ECU backfield with a bigger RB, Rahjai Harris, who was in the same recruiting class. Harris had a season ending knee injury in the 5th game of 2022. This injury shifted some of the workload to Mitchell and it also sounds like it pushed him to return from injury even though he wasn't 100%.

In the 4th quarter of the very first game of the season, against NCState, Mitchell catches a pass in the flat and gets hit in the head, appearing to suffer a concussion. I didn't see that injury reported or listed anywhere, but I wonder if this was when his 2022 concussion issue started. Exited game against Navy in September of 2022 when he jumped in the air and landed on his back. I wasn't able to find any information about the nature of his injury. He did not play in the following week's game. Hit in the head in the 4th quarter of BYU game (defender ejected for targeting), continued to play that series, but was removed from game and was out during the team's final offensive series. The next game, hit in the helmet again, knocking him out of the game, again the defender ejected for targeting, against Cincy.

So, by my count, he might have suffered at least 3 major concussions in 2022 (I didn't watch every game.) Especially since RBs frequently get hit and he's a smaller player, I consider this to be a real potential problem. Might even be serious enough that a team could red flag him and completely remove him from their draft board for medical reasons. I don't know, I'm not a doctor. Brandin Cooks is still playing, but he also isn't a RB.

Has a low key personality in interviews, good sense of humor, he reminds me a little of Clinton Portis, but more reserved, not the attention seeker that Portis was(did Portis say some crazy stuff from time to time, or am I confusing him with another player?)

Reportedly hit 22.6 MPH on a 63 yard TD run against App State, which would have been the fastest speed in the NFL in 2022. There were only 2 plays during 2022 season where runners went over 22 MPH (Parris Campbell 22.11 and Kenneth Walker 22.09.) At the Combine, Campbell ran 4.31 seconds and Walker ran 4.38 seconds. So, if the MPH reading is accurate, Mitchell could have sub 4.4 second speed.

2020: 88-443-2 rushing (5.0 ave), 11-75-1 receiving, 1 fumble

2021: 174-1,132-9 rushing (6.5 ave), 22-253-1 receiving. 1 fumble

2022: 201-1,452-14 rushing (7.2 ave), 27-252-1 receiving, zero fumbles

2 career fumbles on 523 touches, an excellent, low fumble rate.

ESPN not ranked

CBSSports not ranked

Drafttek not ranked

NFLDB 10th RB, 121st overall (4th rd)

Sports Illustrated, 12th RB, 4th round

Shane Hallam not ranked

Brian Bosarge 205th (6th rd)

PFN 19th RB, 274th (UDFA)

NFLmockdraftdatabase draft simulator 241st overall (7th round)

PFF draft simulator 109th overall (4th round)

PFN draft simulator 386th overall (UDFA), there were 262 picks in 2022, so this is way in the UDFA territory.

NFLDB: Low pad level, breakaway speed, lateral agility, elite receiver, runs routes like a WR, natural hands, gets small to squeeze through traffic, excellent initial burst. Anticipates contact, tripped up by first contact, loses momentum, lacks size in pass protection, struggles to stand up blitzers, a complementary RB.

Ourlads: Excellent stop and go quickness, breakaway speed, size will limit role in NFL, needs to be more aggressive running between the tackles.


Smooth, fluid runner. Powerful, efficient strides

Has extra gear in the open field. Not a one speed runner and speed doesn't top out. Once he breaks into the open, if there is another defender close to him, it is like he can hit another gear and pull away from them.

Speed to bounce runs outside and win races to the edge. Burns pursuit angles.

Instant and excellent speed burst up the middle or diagonally when he sees a wide open running lane, able to explode through the opening before it closes and before the defense can react to close it down.

Very impressive "1 step burst", both from a stop and when he's already running. If defender is close to him, in a single step he can suddenly accelerate away from them and create separation. Some RBs can only do this from a full stop, but he can do it by shoving into another gear. A great way to use his speed is just have him catch a short pass while running across the field parallel with the LOS. The defender thinks they are close as they follow him, but since he can beat them in 1 step, once he catches the ball he can still beat them and turn the corner, creating an opportunity for YAC. Reminds me of playing video game football. Defenders typically are instructed to stay close to the opponent, don't allow there to be separation, but with Mitchell that is counterintuitively dangerous. As the saying goes, "if he's even, he's leaving." If you are a LB or a safety, it might be better to create some cushion, don't try to run with him, otherwise as soon as he has the ball he's going to leave you in the dust.

Darting movements at the LOS. Shifty in the hole. Electric ability to stop on a dime and burst in another direction. Elusive in tight quarters. Uses his off arm to help him shrug off some tackles or stiff arm. Subtle fakes as he approaches the LOS trick defenders into stopping their feet. Safety on a run blitz has him in sights, but the RB runs sideways and steps out of the tackle, which is one of his go to moves, he runs 90 degrees sideways and manages to get out of the tackle. I don't know if that's going to work in the NFL, because there typically won't be enough space for that tactic, but at a smaller college he used it effectively. Balance to tip toe along sideline while at speed.

Built low to the ground. Corners like a Formula 1 race car. Takes excellent angles, efficiently beats defenders without going too wide, properly judging the ideal path to follow. Can swivel his hips and generate tremendous torque, allowing him to maintain balance and high speed as he makes moves or goes around obstructions in his path.

Keeps ball tucked, whether in right or left hand, even when linking together successive moves or after initial contact. Protects ball with his pad level and body positioning. Low fumble rate.

Running style sucks linebackers forward towards the LOS, then he bounces outside and beats them around the edge. Good vision on 2nd level defenders, manipulates them at the LOS. Vision to quickly diagnose when holes are closed, then as he bounces outside he's still scanning to look for opportunities to cutback. Creative runner with great instincts and feel for how to run. Able to adjust if blockers get pushed backwards into his path. Presses the hole to outside to set up edge defenders getting blocked by a TE or OT, then cuts back to the inside. Cleaned up some messy blocking by his OL by bouncing runs to the outside. At times, the blocking in front of him was pretty lousy, which impacted his stats. He still averaged 7.2 yards per carry, so can you imagine what his rushing numbers would have been if he hadn't gotten injured in 2022 and he played on a team with a good OL (Alabama, Michigan, Ohio State, Georgia, etc.)? He might have had a 2,000 yard rushing season, plus a bunch more receiving yards on top of that.

"Circuitous route" runs that are reminiscent of Barry Sanders. Like in a maze, he might go up the middle, then 90 degrees to the side, then backwards, then around another defender, then up the sideline, then cut back inside, just all over the place, but somehow unlocks the defense. Not a point A to point B runner, he has an unpredictable and instinctive style that is difficult to contain.

Wide zone, sucks the LB into hole, bounces outside, breaks tackle behind the LOS, races around corner, 3 defenders close in on him, but he cuts inside and splits between 2 of them to score go ahead TD in overtime.

One of the best negative 2 yard runs you'll see, the TE is beaten immediately, giving up instant penetration into the backfield. As soon as the RB gets the handoff, he cuts 90 degrees to his right to dodge the TFL, but the WR also is beaten on his block, requiring the RB to immediately make a 2nd cut, to the left, to get away from that guy. The RG is beaten, so there is a LB free up the middle and the RB bounces to his left to beat the 3rd defender, breaking the LB's tackle. The RT is beaten, and the RB is met by the DE, who tackles him for a loss of 2 yards. During this entire play, the ball is tucked high and tight in his left hand. What an awesome play. I bet they didn't put it on his highlight tape, but I thought it was one of his best runs. Sure, it went for a TFL, but he got tackled by the 4th defender! He beat the other 3 guys. Help the guy out and make a block once in a while. Just one? I mean, what do you expect the RB to do when 4 blockers all take losses on the same snap?

Interesting skill at being able to split between 2 guys near the sideline and go back inside. He did it twice vs defenders, then another time he did it between his blocking WR and a defender, his timing is like Jackie Chan doing a movie stunt, somehow his eyes properly estimate that narrow gap and as he's squeezing through that space it is difficult to tackle him.

There is massive penetration, 4 guys breaking into the backfield, the RB runs backwards, bouncing it to the outside, retreating 3 yards to go around the edge. He curves around the defender setting the edge, then with a burst of speed gets by a diving tackle attempt, finally knocked out of bounds after a 6 yard gain.

The exact same play is both one of his best plays and one of his worst plays. Let's take the good side first. There is a run against Cincy that nearly goes for a scintillating 64 yard TD, but he stepped out of bound. It's a zone run, the LB is penetrating by the LG, the RB bounces away from that and goes outside, explodes around the corner, tries to tip toe down the sideline, and goes all the way into the end zone. Tremendous, explosive big play ability.

Zone run, RB sets up 2nd level defender with juke move towards the outside, then cuts inside, breaks tackle by weakside defender, then angles outside to escape the safety, then swivels his hips to step out of a diving tackle attempt by the CB, races around the corner and down the sideline for 28 yards. Wow, super dynamic and electric, stacking move after move to beat each successive defender.

Arms appear to be slightly long relative to torso, which helped him reach behind him and make catch on off target pass.

His stat line from the NCState game is deceptive. He had 10 carries for 36 yards. This included one long run and if you took that out, he had 8 yards on 9 carries. What happened was NCState dominated the ECU offensive line. They didn't dominate the running back. There's under 2 minutes left in the 4th quarter, NCST is leading by 1 point, ball on the ECU 32. The RB catches a dump pass while moving horizontally along the LOS. A LB is on him in coverage. The RB speeds away from the LB, turning the corner at the 39 and at that point there's a group of defenders near midfield trying to close the pursuit angle. The RB is so fast he doesn't let them close the sideline, beating them all in the race until he finally steps out of bounds near the NCST 35. ECU misses a FG in the final seconds and loses the game.

Releases from backfield with necessary tempo. Split out wide like a WR on some plays. Difficult to cover as a receiver when you first start him in motion prior to the snap and give him a running start, he can corner at speed, so the LB has to hustle to get out to the flat in time. Fluid turns after the catch, helping YAC potential.

Dad was NFL player. In interviews, often mentions advice he gets from his dad.

Early entrant, a year younger than average prospect.


Wildly bobbled catches. Body catches. Very sloppy footwork near sideline converted what could have been a catch into an incompletion. Almost collided with WR while releasing from the backfield, perhaps the RB mistimed the route or ran at the wrong angle? Focus drop on pass right on his hands, thinking about turning upfield to run. Had wet bar of soap hands on pass to flat. On a play where he got a concussion, he had a shot at catching a TD on a fade route from WR position, but as the safety was bearing down on him for a huge hit, he sensed it coming, "heard footsteps" and got alligator arms, dropping the pass right before getting hit by the defender. Dangerous yards after catch ability once he has the ball, but isn't going to be consistent in securing the catch first.

"No, no, no! Where are you going?" Many negative yardage Barry Sanders type runs on his tape. Outside zone to the right, the RG is getting pushed backwards into the backfield. The RB should make a decisive downhill cut behind the LG. Mitchell starts heading for the proper gap, but he sees an unblocked LB waiting for him. Instead of trying to hit the hole with speed and momentum, he comes to a complete jump stop, then tries to bounce the run outside of his LT. Mitchell's hesitant style of running doesn't fit a wide zone scheme, he's not a one cut RB. He'll freelance. Mitchell sees safety in his way, instead of cutting towards the LOS, he retreats, attempting to bounce outside of the safety. His running style is either borderline genius or borderline madness. In games it works, but at times it is directly contrary to how a RB is supposed to execute the play. I don't know if he doesn't listen to the coaches or if the coach told him "Yeah, just do whatever. Keeping being you. I don't care. As long as you keep scoring TDs, we're good."

Bounces outside way too often, it is his default mode when there is congestion in his face. Zone run to the right, the LT on the backside of the play gets beaten and creased, surrendering penetration. The RB should cut behind the LT and if he does this there is potential for a big gain, because the LG is climbing up to the LB and the RB would have had a chance to make a 2nd cut to go back towards the right to use the LG's block. Instead of running up the middle of the field, Mitchell attempts to bounce the run all the way outside to the right, gets strung out by the defense and it results in a TFL.

Also will bounce at 2nd level instead of attacking defenders in a direct and downhill manner. All of a sudden will cut 90 degrees sideways and go towards the sideline. Has an odd and unconventional approach that makes me think of a street basketball player or a Brazilian soccer player, full of flair and style, but not textbook or fundamentally sound.

Wide zone run to the left. The C and RG make a great double team block, driving the DT way off the LOS. The LG has the DT turned, with the DT facing the left sideline. The C will come off the combo to climb to the LB. There is a gigantic and obvious cutback lane, the RB should use this fantastic work by the C and RG. Mitchell bounces the run all the way outside the LT and gains 7 yards. On the stat sheet it looks nice, but IMO this is a horrible run. His inconsistent OL finally did a great job and he doesn't even use the block. If I were the center and the RB did that, I'd be kind of ticked off. Why am I working so hard to push this DT backwards if you're just going to run outside every single time?

Okay, let's revisit that near 64 yard TD run against Cincy, the one where Mitchell displays breath taking explosiveness. Mitchell very clearly messes up on that play. It is a wide zone run to the left. The proper read is for the RB to go between the LT and the LG. The RB sees the linebacker pushing by the LG and this spooks him, causing him to bounce the run outside instead of running downhill. As the RB bounces outside, both the LT and the TE on that side appear to be committing holding penalties. This is very common when the RB cuts in a direction that the blockers are not expecting, they can't see the RB, so if the defender suddenly pulls away in the other direction, it can result in a holding call. I wonder if PFF takes this into consideration, because do they give the OL a bad grade when it is really the RB's fault? If you watch the replay, which shows the play from the end zone camera angle, we can see that at the instant the RB decides to bounce outside, there is at least 4 feet of distance between the LB and the LT, plenty of space for the RB to get through the gap. It was entirely unnecessary for him to bounce the run. Moreover, there is wide open space waiting for him at the 2nd level once he got past the LOS. Instead of going towards the sideline where he eventually steps out of bounds, he would have been accelerating towards the 3rd level, going up the middle of the field and would have had better odds of scoring a long TD. In a nutshell, this single play perfectly summarizes Mitchell as a RB. It is what makes him such an interesting player. One NFL coach might see him run and say "That's it, we're cutting this guy. I'm fed up with all these mistakes" but another coach might see him and say "Wow! Did you see that? That guy is our new starting RB. That's the juice this offense has been missing." Neither of those points of view would be wrong, each one is a valid way of evaluating his performance on the field.

Wide zone run to the right. There is a great running lane between his RT and RG, but the RB sees a safety waiting 4 yards past the LOS. RB doesn't hit the hole with speed, he does a shimmy shake dance behind the LOS, losing speed and momentum, ends up a 3 yard gain. That's not how a RB is supposed to run outside zone.

Average lower body strength. A critical difference between Mitchell and Barry Sanders is lower body explosiveness. Barry Sanders had incredible lower body strength for such a small RB. Mitchell does not have powerful or thick legs. During the draft process, Sanders ran 4.39 seconds in the 40, had a 41.5'' vertical jump and a 10'11'' broad jump. Another thing to keep in mind is the level of athleticism of the defenders back in the day was different. The year Barry was drafted, the Rams drafted a defensive lineman from Michigan, Mark Messner, and converted him to ILB. At the Combine, Messner ran 5.24 seconds in the 40. In the 2nd round that year, the Rams drafted Frank Stams, another LB. He ran 4.83 seconds in the 40. So, not only was Sanders from another planet in terms of his individual athleticism, the gap between him and many of the defenders trying to tackle him was huge. How many starting LBs in today's NFL run the 40 between 4.8 and 5.0 seconds?

Underpowered and undersized. Mitchell doesn't have sufficient mass and leg drive to power through tackles or drive forward for extra yards, not able to break some arm tackles. No power on stiff arm, can strike with accuracy, but won't push many defenders away from his body. Short and light in weight, doesn't have chiseled upper body.

Poor short yardage runner. Limited value near GL other than darting through small openings. Tie game late in 4th quarter vs BYU, ball on BYU 9 yard line. Mitchell runs up middle, but the center is beaten. Instead of trying to surge forward to get to the marker, the RB jump stops and tries to bounce laterally to dodge the DT and a LB tackles him for a TFL. On 4th down, they give it to Mitchell again and almost exactly the same thing happens, BYU gets the ball turnover on downs. To be fair to Mitchell, he shouldn't have even been in the game at that point. Those plays happened after the hit where he appeared to suffer a concussion and after the drive ended he never returned to the game, they kept him out on the final series.

Short yardage run with 2 yards to gain, RB comes to stop right before initial contact, losing momentum, barely gets to the marker. Now for the worst one. It is first and goal from the 1 yard line. Zone run, the RB refuses to hammer it into the middle, he retreats and tries to bounce the run all the way outside the LT, becomes a TFL as he's taken down at the 4 yard line. If you're the coach and you call a run up the middle on the 1 yard line, what are you thinking in your head when it is now 2nd down from the 4 yard line? That's worse than an offensive lineman having a false start on the 1 yard line, because at least with a penalty it is still 1st down.

Doesn't always transfer ball to proper hand and when he does it isn't instantaneous, there is a very brief split second where the ball isn't tucked and if a defender were to get lucky and happen to hit him in that instant the ball probably would come out.

Wasn't asked to pass block much, doesn't show much blocking ability. Too small to be effective, had some ugly attempts at chip blocks. RPO scheme, some 5 WR formations, often used as receiver, sometimes team had a different RB in on passing downs. There's a play where it is 6 pass rushers vs the 5 OL and the RB. Pre-snap 2 LBs show potential A gap pressure and a 3rd LB is towards the LT side. The RB is to the left of the QB. Post-snap, there is a 3 man game with the DE (who was over the LT) looping to the inside. The RB is completely confused. He tries to help the LT. The C now faces 2 defenders by himself, a LB and the looping DE. The DE ends up being completely unblocked. Might never be a reliable pass blocker in the pros, even with additional experience and practice.

Concerning series of concussions in 2022 season.

Never had more than about 200 carries in any season in college, slightly built, likely not suited for a bell cow RB role. Lightning RB who needs to be paired with a thunder RB. Not in a pro style offense, wasn't at a power conference school, QB wasn't under center, could require extended time to adjust to an NFL playbook and the higher level of competition.

Extremely limited experience as returner, had 5 kickoff returns in 2022, total of 6 in college career. No punt return experience. Limited special teams value other than as a returner, because he's small with limited play strength. Plus, if he has concussion issues, I'm not sure it is a good idea to try to use him on coverage units or as a returner. This creates draft risk, because if he fails to break into the RB rotation, is it even worth it to carry him on the roster if he can't help on special teams?

High bust potential, but I also think he has a high ceiling.

Draft Grade and Pro Comp

3rd round grade. Phillip Lindsay (UDFA 2018, Broncos, Colorado)

I don't even think I knew Lindsay was in the draft pool back in 2018. At his Pro Day, he measured 5'7 1/4'' tall, 184 pounds, 4.39 sec (40 time), 35.5'' vert, 10'4'' broad, 4.31 sec (shuttle) and 7.12 sec (3 cone). Maybe I knew who he was, but immediately dismissed him, because he was so thin. He didn't look like an NFL RB. I can't remember.

Mitchell won't appeal to everyone. He has a sandlot style of running the ball that doesn't directly translate to the NFL. He doesn't stay within the structure of the offense, which might drive a coach crazy and cause him to tell Mitchell "Hey kid, there's a league where they'll let you run like that, it's called the XFL. That's where you're headed if you don't shape up." While Mitchell might be rough around the edges, he also could be a diamond in the rough. He's super fast, creative and elusive with a natural feel for running that you can't coach.

Mitchell has mostly flown under the radar to this point. He didn't play at a big school, his name isn't even listed on some draft boards, he's a late rounder to UDFA on other boards. As an early entrant, many people probably weren't even expecting him to be in this year's draft. I had never heard of this player until his name appeared on the Sports Illustrated list and if he hadn't been inside the top 20, I still wouldn't have watched his games or paid any attention to him.

Maybe you think it is a huge stretch to give a 3rd round grade to a player who is a late round to UDFA on some boards and isn't even listed on other boards. In 2018, the Broncos drafted 2 running backs and neither of them were Lindsay. They took Royce Freeman from Oregon in the 3rd round and David Williams from Arkansas in the 7th round. Apparently, they didn't think Lindsay was even worth a 7th round pick, because they took that other RB in the 7th. In hindsight, which of those three running backs should have been selected in the 3rd round?

Lindsay was supposedly too small and too light to be an NFL RB. He had back to back 1,000 yard seasons to begin his career, then suffered a series of injuries. He had almost no injuries in his first 2 NFL seasons. Since that point, he hasn't been effective and is currently a street FA. The Colts released him in 2022 and replaced him with... Jake Funk. Who knows, even if Mitchell "makes it" in the NFL, someday he might be deemed not as good as the next Jake Funk.

That day's not today. We don't have an excuse to turn Mitchell into the sleeper UDFA that Phillip Lindsay became in 2018. If you didn't know the name before, circle it now. Keaton Mitchell from East Carolina is one of the top running backs to watch in the 2023 NFL Draft.