Baltimore Ravens running back Keaton Mitchell put the rest of the NFL on notice in Week 9. The rookie RB had not seen a single carry in the first eight weeks of the season before his nine-carry, 138-rushing-yard performance against the Seattle Seahawks. Mitchell finished the game with a rushing touchdown and averaging 15.3 yards a carry.
It was a monster debut for the running back, and it got people wondering about his story and his road to the NFL. Mitchell wasn’t highly recruited and his draft experience wasn’t the easiest.
Let’s look at Mitchell and his road to the Ravens backfield.
Keaton Mitchell’s Road to East Carolina University
Since Mitchell was born on January 17, 2002, in McDonough, Georgia, football was in his DNA. Mitchell’s father is Anthony Mitchell, a former NFL safety who played several years in the National Football League and won a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens.
Following in his father’s footsteps, Mitchell got into the family business courtesy of Eagle’s Landing Christian Academy. Mitchell helped the school reach four consecutive state championships, running for 4,347 yards and 88 touchdowns just during his junior and senior years alone.
He was a Class A Private Offensive Player of the Year and Class A Region 5 Player of the Year honoree, ending his college career as one of the more decorated high school running backs in the country.
Despite the production, Mitchell was a three-star recruit. While he did obtain several offers from schools such as East Carolina, Eastern Kentucky, Georgia Southern, and Nebraska, the blue blood of college football did not knock down his door for his services out of high school.
Mitchell opted to attend East Carolina and committed to the school not long after officially visiting the campus.
From Productive College RB to Undrafted
As a true freshman at East Carolina, Mitchell started two games and appeared in nine. He tallied 88 rush attempts for 443 yards and two touchdowns, as well as 11 receptions for 75 yards and one touchdown.
The following season, Mitchell started all 12 games and recorded over 1,000 rushing yards, becoming the first to do so at ECU since 2013. That performance earned a first-team All-AAC choice and led the American Athletic Conference in total rushing yards and all-purpose yards per game.
In his third season at ECU, Mitchell ran for 1,452 yards and tallied 14 touchdowns. He ran for over 100 yards in nine out of the 12 games and was first-team All-AAC for the second straight year.
After his third season in ECU, Mitchell decided to forgo his senior season and entered the NFL Draft a year early. As productive as Mitchell was in college, he still went undrafted despite many people believing he had a draftable grade.
Mitchell was signed by the Ravens following the draft and fought through training camp, earning every opportunity he got. Mitchell found his way on the Ravens’ initial 53-man roster for the start of the season but was placed on injured reserve two days later.
Mitchell was activated on the roster for the first time on October 14 and made his NFL debut in Week 6 against the Titans. His first career carries came in Week 9, where he finished with 138 yards and one touchdown.
Why Wasn’t Mitchell Drafted?
While the production in college was there, and thus far in the NFL he has proven to belong in the league, why he went undrafted may speak to his measurables: Mitchell came into the draft only 5’7″ and 179 pounds. While small backs have been productive in the NFL for a long time, it may have scared teams away after looking at his size.
A factor that worked against him may also be that the NFL is changing how they view running backs. The idea is that a premium resource like a draft pick isn’t necessary to find production. While no one drafted Mitchell, it’s probably safe to say the Ravens are grateful that he chose to sign with them after the fact as he looks to jump-start a promising career.