Recent NFL draft history has proven teams can find productive running backs in the later rounds, getting great value at a key position that can keep their offensive attack balanced.
One such gem in the 2021 draft class? Louisiana’s Elijah Mitchell, who leaves the Ragin’ Cajuns for the next level after totaling 3,864 total yards and an astounding 46 touchdowns (41 rushing, five receiving).
Mitchell recently spoke exclusively with The Draft Network about his experience at this year’s Senior Bowl, what it was like to play in such a high-powered rushing attack, and why an NFL team should take a chance on him in this year’s draft.
JM: How do you look back on your time in Louisiana?
EM: I’m very happy with how my career played out at Louisiana. For four years, they gave me an excellent opportunity to play the game that I love while learning from some of the best coaches in the nation. They taught me so much about discipline. They gave me every chance to become the football player that I am today. I can’t thank them enough for that.
JM: You took full advantage of your opportunity. Louisiana has had such a great rushing attack over the years and you obviously played a big role in that. 2019 was a special year for you guys on the ground. Players such as yourself were running behind current NFL offensive linemen like Robert Hunt and Kevin Dotson. How has playing in this offense helped prepare you for what’s next?
EM: We’ve always had three running backs in our system. That’s just how we ran our offense. If you look at the NFL nowadays, those rushing by committee offenses are becoming a lot more popular. Well, I’ve already played in that. I’m used to sharing the ball. Whichever team drafts me, I’ll likely be playing in a similar rotation. My experience having already done that will help me make a flawless transition to the league.
JM: That’s a great point. You competed in this year’s Senior Bowl. I thought that was a good opportunity for you. What was that experience like?
EM: I had a great experience out there. Having that chance to compete in Mobile while being coached by some amazing NFL coaches, that was a big opportunity for me. I learned a lot about how the NFL works and how they like to call plays. It taught me so many little things about how an NFL team likes to operate. I have so many takeaways from being at that event.
JM: What do you feel is the overall impression you left on the teams in attendance?
EM: I think every team in attendance realized that I’m willing to do whatever it takes to help the team. I can play on special teams. I can do anything and everything necessary in order to grow into my role on the 53-man roster. I’m a playmaker at the end of the day.
JM: What is your favorite part of playing the running back position?
EM: I love running the ball down the defense’s throat. Us running backs can really tire out a defense. The opportunity to score touchdowns and make big plays for my team is what gets me going. It’s a team game at the end of the day and we had such a special group of guys at the running back position at Louisiana.
JM: You really did. It’s inevitable that somebody is going to call you a “small school prospect” throughout this process. You’ve probably heard it before. How do you typically respond to that?
EM: I’ve always just tried to focus on being a great football player. I don’t pay attention or listen to those things. I refuse to let somebody else distract me from the task at hand. I’m going to keep working to become a better player. That’s all that matters at the end of the day. I’m focused on trying to become one of the all-time greats.
JM: That’s the right way to approach it. I’m going to give you a little scenario. Which do you prefer, a 75-yard touchdown run, or six or more carries on a long drive that results in a rushing TD?
EM: I’ll take the six or more carries on a long touchdown drive. That gives me a chance to beat up on the defense a little bit. It also gives our defense a little break. A long drive gives them a good chance to catch their breath on the sidelines before they have to come back on the field.
JM: I love that answer. Most running backs go with the 75-yard one, but you make a great point for why the longer drive is more beneficial. If you could pick the brain of an NFL running back, who would you choose and why?
EM: I would choose Alvin Kamara. I love the way he plays the game and how he catches passes coming out of the backfield. He’s just as effective running between the tackles as he is running outside. He’s such a balanced player. It’s unbelievable. I try to play the game the same way. He’s one of my favorite players in the league. I would love to learn something from him.
JM: That’s a great choice. We’ve now reached the virtual part of the draft where prospects are meeting with teams via Zoom. How is that process going for you so far?
EM: The process is going great so far. I met with every team at the Senior Bowl. All of my interviews went very well. I’ve also begun to meet with some teams via Zoom, but I have to keep that information private at this time. I’m excited about what’s next.
JM: I’ve really appreciated your time today. In closing, why should an NFL team use one of their draft picks on Elijah Mitchell?
EM: A team should use one of their draft picks on Elijah Mitchell because I’m willing to do whatever it takes to make the team great. I’m a playmaker at the end of the day. I’m a professional that’s always focused on our next game. I do the little things the right way. That’s what allows me to be successful.