Rookie running back Keaton Mitchell isn’t the typical sized running back. The 5-foot-7, 179-pound playmaker burst onto the scene last week when he ran for 138 yards on nine carries and scored his first NFL rushing touchdown in a 37–3 rout of the Seattle Seahawks.
The Ravens found a playmaker that adds electricity to their running back group in just his second game. It’s been a long road this year for Mitchell, but it appears he has finally arrived.
Mitchell declared for the NFL Draft after the season, and finished his stint at East Carolina with 3,027 rushing yards and an average of 6.5 yards-per-carry. He was selected in the fourth round of the USFL Draft by the New Orlando Breakers this year. Mitchell chose to sign an undrafted free agent deal with the Ravens instead.
The initial 53-man roster included Mitchell back in August. Unfortunately, Mitchell was placed on injured reserve two days later. The hard work Mitchell put in to get to this point hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“Man, I love it,” running back Gus Edwards said. “He’s a guy that’s been working hard every day since he’s been here, undrafted, free agent, kind of went under the radar.”
“The guys are so excited for him. He’s a guy that has just been working every day,” Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said. “He has a great attitude. He’s definitely [a] very talented guy – we all knew that.”
Mitchell made his debut in Week 6 against the Tennessee Titans, playing exclusively on special teams. Now he’ll be a part of the Ravens’ running back group going forward.
“Those three backs [RB Gus Edwards, RB Justice Hill, RB Keaton Mitchell] are going to be all playing a lot,” Harbaugh said. “Now, you have three healthy backs. We haven’t had that a lot. I’m sure there’ll be a rotation.”
Mitchell led the Ravens in rushing last week. Harbaugh said previously that Baltimore wanted to get Mitchell going. It happened against Seattle.
“Just [to] finally get an opportunity at this point in time [at] midseason already, he finally gets a chance and makes the most of it. It’s a guy that we were talking about making sure he got some chances and got some touches. It was something we were all hoping would happen, and I thought [offensive coordinator] Todd [Monken] did a good job of making sure it did happen,“ Harbaugh said of Mitchell’s performance.
He gives Baltimore a change of pace from their big, sturdy back in Edwards while presenting the same all-around playmaking ability as Hill.
“The versatility back there is amazing, “ left tackle Ronnie Stanley said. “To be able to run power ball games with Gus and Justice and then you’ve got the speed of Keaton, we can really hit different gaps, all angles.”
Despite being a smaller back by NFL standards, Mitchell is capable of running between the tackles in addition to outside. Mitchell showed the ability to break tackles and make defenders miss on multiple runs when he took a draw play up the middle. Mitchell’s 4.3 speed in the 40-yard dash was also on display when he broke off a 37-yard touchdown run last week.
Ironically, Mitchell’s father Anthony was also an undrafted free agent that played safety for the Ravens from 1999 – 2002. His father wasn’t at the game to see the breakout performance in person. He’ll be there for a game around Thanksgiving or Christmas, but he was with Mitchell in spirit after the game.
“My dad said just stay humble, keep doing what you do, keep thanking God, and your time will come,” Mitchell said on Sunday. “Today, it came, so [I’ll] just keep going.”