Bears Draft Target: Keaton Mitchell
Vasha Hunt - USA Today Sports

Bears Draft Target: Keaton Mitchell

by - Senior Writer -

The other day we talked about the possibility of the Bears taking a running back on day 2 or 3 of the NFL draft as they look to replace David Montgomery and his production. Not only is that possible but there is another possibility of the Bears drafting two RBs as they look to add as much talent to this roster as possible.

While none of those RBs would be first-round picks unless the Bears shock the world and make that pick at No. 9, day two and three of the NFL draft will be filled with RB selections and ones the Bears will jump on if available. As important as the first round is to a team getting back on track, I would argue that day two is my favorite day of the draft as it gives you a chance to see players from smaller FBS schools get taken with an opportunity to make it big in the NFL.

East Carolina RB Keaton Mitchell is another of those guys, as many feel he is a Round 3-5 back. Unlike DeWayne McBride, who is a bruiser of a back, Mitchell is much smaller and checks in at 5-9 and 188 pounds. That is similar to Maurice Jones-Drew and Darren Sproles body type, which could benefit today's game.

What stands out about Mitchell is that he is not a running back by trade but a hybrid player that can move around a lot on offense. The Bears had a player like that in Tarik Cohen, who played a significant role in the Bears success on offense for three years. Then came a devastating knee injury that forced the Bears to move on from him. Chicago hasn't been able to replace him since, and Mitchell could be that guy to finally solve that voided area.

Given how he translates in the NFL, Mitchell will likely be used more in the passing game instead of between the tackles type of guy. Given his speed, you can see why teams want him on the edge, as his 31 carries of 15-plus yards in 2022 led the NCAA.

Mitchell is the definition of a duel threat back who finished with 3027 yards on the ground and 580 yards through the air with 28 career scores. The 2022 season saw Mitchell break out and become one of the better backs in college. Across 12 games this past season, Mitchell averaged an astonishing 7.2 yards per carry and finished with 1452 yards with 14 touchdowns.

He also added a career-high 27 receptions for 252 yards, with another TD proving he can handle pass-catching duties. The thing that stood out with Cohen was his ability to do everything on offense and his overall speed. Given that Mitchell was clocked with a 4.37 40-time, Speed is not an issue for him; instead, it is a significant strength.

Small RBs have a tough time lasting in the NFL, but when you are as fast as Mitchell is, that often makes up for the lack of size. Anytime you have over 3700 yards of scrimmage yardage in three seasons, the lack of size argument goes out the window as people have started to realize how good of a player he was during his collegiate tenure.

He mashes the gas pedal and gets to top speed quickly. He can outflank defenses and chalk up a long run if defenses aren’t ready for him. However, he needs a clear entry point inside and isn’t built to withstand the punishment that accompanies interior running in the NFL.

Teams will need to have a plan for him, but he’s electric with the ball in his hands. His big-play potential could be hard to pass up for teams needing more juice. At worst, this is a kick return man or special teamer to begin his NFL career as he aims to battle his way onto an NFL roster.

Along with his 31 runs of 15 plus yards, he had 54 runs of 10 plus yards, leading the FBS. That was aided by his instant acceleration that eliminated the angle of defenders, while his ability to cut in one motion forced plenty of missed tackles. Given his speed, Mitchell is a nightmare for LBs to cover, which is why many teams will look to use him in the passing game more than before.

Given that he is on the smaller side, one of his most significant weaknesses is his inability to finish runs. Because of that, he looks to bounce those runs outside, hoping his speed can get him to the edge. He needs a clear point of attack as a ball carrier, but if given a crease, look out, as his breakaway speed could lead to big plays.

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