The Cleveland Browns are set at running back for another season.
It is a comforting notion for everyone to have the league’s best running back in Nick Chubb lining up in the backfield. And while second-year running back Jerome Ford is unproven, the Browns seem comfortable with what he can bring as Chubb’s backup.
There is a bit of a deep drop off after that, however, as the rest of the running back room currently consists of Demetric Felton Jr. (promising but hasn’t been able to make an impact), John Kelly Jr. and Nate McCrary, who collectively have not done much to inspire confidence.
While the Browns do not need another player to run the ball, they could be in the market for a player that can be a threat out of the backfield in the passing game, perhaps one who has game-changing speed.
If general manager Andrew Berry is thinking along the same lines, a possible name to keep an eye on, thanks to Dane Brugler’s seven-round mock draft at The Athletic, is East Carolina’s Keaton Mitchell, so let’s take a look at what the small but fast Mitchell brings to the field.
Name: Keaton Mitchell
Position: Running back
Height/Weight: 5-foot-7, 179 pounds
College: East Carolina Pirates
Stats (3 seasons): 33 games, 26 starts, 463 carries, 3,027 rushing yards, 6.5 yards per carry, 25 rushing touchdowns, 60 receptions, 580 receiving yards, 9.7 yards per reception, 3 receiving touchdowns
Relative Athletic Score
Keaton Mitchell is a RB prospect in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 6.17 #RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 667 out of 1740 RB from 1987 to 2023. https://t.co/wCNovRGUSX pic.twitter.com/iYpTpeLwjv— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 18, 2023
Average “Big Board” Position As of Publishing Date
168th Overall (NFL Mock Draft Database)
PFF Big Board Rank: 147 (Fourth-round value)
What an Expert is Saying
Keaton Mitchell, RB, East Carolina— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) April 21, 2023
5-8 179 | 4.37 ⭐(1.48 10s ⭐) | 38 vert 1006 broad
Gadgety. But someone could have much fun with him. pic.twitter.com/JMrTi4JtFg
Pros and Cons
Mitchell has the type of speed that NFL teams love as he rarely gets caught from behind and is “one of this year’s draft’s most difficult players to pin down in space,” according to Pro Football Focus. He is also considered “electric with the ball in his hands (and his) big-play potential could be hard to pass up for teams needing more juice,” according to NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein.
The problem is Mitchell’s size makes it difficult for him to run between the tackles and he knows that as he is always looking to break a run to the outside, as The Athletic’s Dane Brugler points out:
“He is bounce happy, and all of his runs feel like a race to the outside corner as he seeks space to operate, whether that was the design or not. Overall, Mitchell isn’t built to run between the tackles and wants to stay on the outside, but he has natural run skill with the shifty and nifty foot quickness to create chunk gains. He is a potential change-of-pace back who will help his NFL chances if he develops a role on special teams.”
Browns Player Drafting Could Impact
The player at the top of the list would likely be Felton, who has yet to find a consistent role in his two seasons with the Browns. Felton was seen as a pass-catching threat but only has 20 receptions for 189 yards so far, with all but two of those catches and eight of those yards coming in his rookie season.
ECU RB Keaton Mitchell—led CFB in 15+ yd carries last year. There will be size and usage questions but holy mackerel the stop-start ability and shiftiness…. pic.twitter.com/jeNytLZFEF— Mina Kimes (@minakimes) February 22, 2023
Low to medium: The Browns have no issues when it comes to running the ball thanks to Chubb, and they are likely OK at the backup position with Ford.
But when it comes to catching the ball, the Browns could use a threat out of the backfield to keep defenses honest, and Mitchell would represent such a threat. He might be a bit of a luxury given that there are concerns about how he will hold up given his size, but the explosiveness in his game makes Mitchell an enticing prospect for a creative offensive mind.