If there’s any undrafted free agent with the best chance to not only make a roster but be a rookie contributor, it might just be Baltimore Ravens running back Keaton Mitchell.
Mitchell largely flew under the radar before, during, and after the 2023 NFL Draft. Perhaps it was because of his smaller size or the middling East Carolina team he played for. Regardless, the Georgia native was a dominant force in the AAC over his last couple of seasons. Mitchell accumulated more than 2,500 rushing yards and 23 touchdowns across the 2021 and 2022 seasons while averaging roughly seven yards per carry. That performance earned him back-to-back seasons of First-Team All-AAC honors, and he was even an Honorable Mention All-American in 2022.
What makes Mitchell so special and capable of producing at a high level is his incredible athleticism. He has unbelievable and near-instantaneous speed—Mitchell ran a 4.37 40—which allows him to hit the home run once he breaks out into the open field. Getting Mitchell the ball in his hands and letting him create with good vision, quick cuts, and terrific speed has been the key to his outstanding production.
The East Carolina product is a very interesting addition to the Ravens’ running backs room for several reasons. For starters, there are only three other backs on the roster: Gus Edwards, J.K. Dobbins, and Justice Hill. With that being the case, Mitchell won’t have to compete with too many other contenders for a roster spot.
For another thing, Edwards and Dobbins are both set to hit free agency after the 2023 season. Hill will be a free agent after 2024. If the Ravens are looking to the future of their rushing offense, Mitchell could represent an injection of youth going forward. They might end up keeping one of Edwards or Dobbins after this season but likely not both, especially after the two of them missed the entirety of the 2021 season after tearing an ACL.
Dobbins, in particular, looked like he had lost a step in 2022. Still, he’ll only be 25 this season and has the chance to bounce back in 2023. Meanwhile, Edwards is entering his age-28 season and could face a sharp decline soon. Mitchell is just 21 and doesn’t have a worrying injury history, meaning he could step into a change-of-pace, RB2 role as early as his second season.
With his youth, speed, and big-play ability, Mitchell could bring something to Baltimore that it has been missing in its rushing offense in recent years. The Ravens could utilize him in a reduced role in his rookie season with the plan to let him develop and become their No. 2 running back as early as year two.
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