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2023 NFL Draft Profile: East Carolina running back Keaton Mitchell

East Carolina’s Keaton Mitchell would give the Denver Broncos an explosive offensive option for Sean Payton’s offense.

The Denver Broncos have been active in this year’s pre-draft process and have visited with or hosted a handful of running backs in this year’s class.

Where there is smoke—there is fire—and that’s a pretty good sign they are going to draft one. But who exactly is on their radar?

East Carolina’s Keaton Mitchell makes the list and recently met with the Broncos. He offers a unique skillset that nobody on Denver’s roster has, which is a major plus. Let’s take a look at Mitchell as a prospect and what he could do to help revitalize the Broncos’ running back room.

Keaton Mitchell — Running Back — Eastern Carolina

Height: 5’8” Weight: 179 lbs.

Bench Press: N/A | Arm Length: 33 3/4” | Hands: 9 1/4”

40 Yard Dash: 4.37 | 3 Cone Drill: N/A | 20 Yard Shuttle: N/A

Mitchell was a three-star recruit coming out of Eagles Landing Christian Academy in Stockbridge, Georgia. He received a handful of offers from programs such as Colorado State, West Virginia, Miami (OH), Temple, and Nebraska—but committed to East Carolina—the first collegiate program to offer him during his recruiting process.

In his freshman year, Mitchell saw playing time in 9 games as a back-up with 88 rushes for 443 yards and two touchdowns. Additionally, he tallied 75 yards on 11 receptions and one touchdown.

As a sophomore in 2021, he earned the team’s starting job at the position and became one of the best players in the American Conference and racked up 1,385 yards from scrimmage in ten touchdowns. This past season he took his game to an entirely different level and notched 1,452 rushing yards, 252 receiving yards, and 15 total touchdowns.

While he may be small in size compared to most NFL running backs, Mitchell’s blazing speed, athleticism and production will make him an intriguing options for team’s needing to upgrade their running back stable.

Film Room and Highlights

Scouting Report

Positives: Possesses first-class speed and an incredible second-gear to leave defenders in the dust. Highly productive player in limited touches with a penchant for the big play. Topped college football with the most runs of over 15-yards in his final season. Averaged an impeccable 6.5 yards per carry in his three seasons with the Pirates. Runs with a low-center of gravity and has incredible change of direction and acceleration skills. An absolute terror in the open field for opposing defenders. Experienced receiver who can be lined up in multiple fashions to help electrify an offense.

Negatives: Diminutive size that will likely relegate him to a role player in the NFL. Not an overly strong runner and can get washed out of interior run plays. Has a habit of trying to take things outside and leaves meat on the bone by trying to be too creative. Needs to be more decisive hitting open rushing lanes and take what is given to him. Little experience in pass protection and struggled when tasked to do so.

Overall: Day 3 prospect. [Fifth-round value]

Mitchell’s Fit With the Broncos

This year’s class has a ton of quality options at running back, but Mitchell’s versatility and top-notch speed stand out.

While it’s likely he will never be a team’s lead workhorse due to his size, his big-play ability, world-class speed, and receiving skills would diversify Denver’s running back room. Utilizing him on outside runs where he can take advantage of his plus traits and as a movable chess piece out of the backfield would really put pressure on opposing defenses.

The Broncos need a home run hitter who can take it the distance and Mitchell’s ability in that regard is likely the best in this year’s class. He seems like the kind of player Sean Payton would could set up for success and have make an immediate impact as a rookie.

All things considered, I feel that he is an option worth considering for them in the middle of Day 3 of this year’s draft and merits consideration in the Top 150 selections.