NFL Draft

2023 NFL Draft Profiles: ECU RB Keaton Mitchell

From now until the 2023 NFL Draft, we will scout and create profiles for as many prospects as possible, examining their strengths, weaknesses, and what they can bring to an NFL franchise. These players could be potential top-10 picks, all the way down to Day Three selections and priority undrafted free agents. Today I’ll be profiling ECU running back Keaton Mitchell.

#2 Keaton Mitchell, Running Back, East Carolina University (Jr.), 5077, 186 Pounds

NFL Combine invite


Player Ht/Wt Hand Size Arm Length Wingspan
Keaton Mitchell 5077, 186 9 1/4 30 3/4 N/A
40-Yard Dash 10-Yard Dash Short Shuttle 3-Cone
4.37 1.50 4.36 7.40
Broad Jump Vertical Bench Press
10’6″ 38 13

The Good

— Great acceleration, very hard to catch in the open field
— Has great speed, ran a 4.37 40-yard dash and it shows up on tape
— Can adjust his body well to make guys miss
— Runs different routes, not just check downs in the passing game
— Can break off explosive runs and does it pretty often
— Is slippery, just because you get your hands on him doesn’t mean you’ll bring him down
— Does a good job of reading his blocks
— Has speed to bounce to the outside if nothing is there
— Amazing production his final two years in college, 2,584 yards and 23 rushing touchdowns in last two seasons 

The Bad

— Has some drops on tape
— Not really physical, will have to beat you with speed and elusiveness
— Willing blocker but not very good at holding his blocks
— Isn’t the most successful in short yardage
— Didn’t play in a top conference against the best talent, and stats against ranked opponents were not great


— 21 years old, born January 17, 2002
— Honorable Mention All-American by PFF in 2022
— First-team All-AAC in 2021 and 2022
— Ran for over 5.0 yards per carry each year
— Finished collegiate career with 463 carries for 3,027 yards and 25 touchdowns.
— 27 catches for 252 yards in 2022
— Caught a receivin g touchdown in every season of college ball
— Split carries with Rahjai Harris in 2021, was supposed to in 2022 too but Harris got hurt
— Broke the 100-yard rushing mark in 9 of 12 games in 2022
— 3-star recruit out of high school
— Dad, Anthony Mitchell, played eight NFL seasons and won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens in 2000

Tape Breakdown

Keaton Mitchell is one of the fastest running backs in this year’s draft. Not only did he run the third-fastest 40-yard dash (4.37 seconds) at the NFL Combine, but his speed shows on tape as he consistently broke off huge runs at ECU. Despite being a in a running back-by-committee approach in 2021, he still put up 1,132 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. His ability in the pass game is also better than the other running backs I’ve profiled so far. He runs more than just check-down routes and his speed helps him out too. If he gets the ball in space there is a potential for something big to happen.

While Mitchell isn’t a physical running back by any means, at 5’8″ 179 pounds he still isn’t easy to bring down due to his elusiveness and speed. Watch in this clip below how Mitchell just makes guys miss and gets up field for a big gain.

Now look at this below, against Costal Carolina as he just wiggles out of numerous tackles. He’s not a big guy yet he simply doesn’t go down easy; it’s like he is covered in butter.

This kind of stuff is all over his tape. For a guy who is smaller and not very physical it is essential for him to make guys miss. In addition, Mitchell reads his blocks well. In this play below Mitchell sees if he continues going outside he is going nowhere so he cuts it back inside to pick up positive yardage.

Because Mitchell has such elite speed, he doesn’t always need a hole to open up or blockers to give him a lane to escape. He can make it happen all by himself by bouncing it outside. Once outside it is tough to catch him.

Let’s also just look at his speed and acceleration. In the open field the odds of catching Mitchell are low. Speed kills and some NFL team is going to give this kid a shot based on his speed alone.


Now to some of the poor stuff on his tape. While Mitchell shows promise in the pass game due to his speed, ability to line up in the slot, and run different routes, his hands are a work in progress. He has some concentration drops that are simply bad. Below against Cincinnati he drops a pass with space to make something happen in the middle of the field.

In this clip, Mitchell runs a route to the flat and with no one around him and he still drops the pass.

Drops are something he will have to clean up because he brings a lot of potential in the pass-catching game due to his speed alone. If he has drop issues teams won’t put him on the field because he isn’t really capable of pass blocking either.

Watch here against Navy where he tries to block but gets pushed back and the defender disengages rather easily. While the QB rolling to the outside certainly isn’t helpful, it would be nice if Mitchell could keep engaged with the defender a bit longer.

One last issue with Mitchell is that he has some issues in short-yardage situations. It makes sense given his smaller size, but if you’re in third-and-short, fourth-and-one got to have it, he just isn’t your guy. Below against BYU, Mitchell simply isn’t powerful enough to pick up this first down.


Speed kills, and because of that Keaton Mitchell will find his way on a roster at some point this summer, either through the draft or as an undrafted free agent. He is elusive and will make big plays happen; he did it in college and he will likely do it in the NFL. I don’t think Mitchell is cut out to be a lead back in the NFL though. In a passing league he isn’t good enough as a blocker, and his concentration drops are frustrating. Teams may opt to only use him in the screen-pass game.

However, he is fast and elusive. He produced as well. Those things cannot be discounted, and he is certainly a fun player to watch. He reminds me of what Anthony McFarland Jr. was supposed to be — a speedster change-of-pace guy –but injuries really never let McFarland’s career get off the ground. Because of his speed I can see the Steelers being interested in Mitchell late in the draft if the team wants to add a running back. He would be a change of pace from Najee Harris and Jaylen Warren, something that may be enticing to Mike Tomlin and Matt Canada.

Projection: Late Day 3

Depot Draft Grade: 6.5 – End Of Roster/Practice Squad (6th/7th Round)

Games Watched: vs Navy (2022) at BYU (2022) at Cincinnati (2022) vs Costal Carolina (2022)

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