No offense Gus and Justice, but move over. There’s a new Ravens’ running back in town.
Undrafted rookie Keaton Mitchell is eligible to be activated off of injured reserve in Week 5, and the 5-foot, 9-inch rusher out of East Carolina University may solve what’s left of Baltimore’s rushing problems.
Remember the 90-yard blocked field goal return for a touchdown the Ravens had against the Tennessee Titans in the AFC divisional playoffs the year of the team’s first Super Bowl? Ravens safety Anthony Mitchell? Yeah, that’s Keaton’s dad.
MITCHELL SHINES AT EAST CAROLINA & NFL COMBINE
The speedster passed along his talent to his son, who quietly ran a 4.37 40-yard dash at the NFL combine — behind only De’Von Achane and Jahmyr Gibbs at his position. Mitchell also had the fastest 10-yard split of any RB at the combine at 1.48 seconds.
The same running back who had only two games with under 100 yards rushing last season for a little Pirate town out of the American Athletic Conference who appeared in, and won, a bowl game for the first time in a decade.
Mitchell finished with a career-high 14 touchdowns in 12 games with 1,704 yards – 1,452 of them rushing. It was his second of back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Mitchell also averaged 7.2 yards per carry at ECU, which ranked in the 94th percentile.
WHY HAVEN’T WE HEARD ANYTHING ABOUT MICHELL BEFORE NOW?
He went undrafted to Baltimore, fighting veterans for a spot on the 53-man roster. Mitchell was injured in the team’s second preseason game against the Washington Commanders. In the game, he had a score called back after a holding penalty on a 35-yard run. However, he tried making up for it in the second quarter after a carry for 31 yards. Not quite, but not bad.
Mitchell was a positive to take away from the Ravens’ first preseason loss in 25 tries. And, Mitchell made enough plays during camp to catch John Harbaugh’s eye.
“You saw we threw a wheel route in the corner of the end zone that we almost made. Just kind of right out of bounds but the catch was still made. You know rookie running backs don’t get names yet, we’ll see before we start using his name,” Harbaugh joked back in early August. “But No. 34, he showed he can run [and] has good hands.”
But, the shoulder injury landed him on I.R. to begin the season, requiring the first four games to complete before Mitchell could see game action.
In that time, starting running back J.K. Dobbins was lost to the season in Week 1. The potential comeback player of the year tore his Achilles after missing most of last season with a torn ACL. Sure, backup Gus Edwards is now a veteran in the Ravens backfield, but the 28-year-old has not reached 65 yards in a game this year on the ground. Edwards is also being used more than Justice Hill (three carries in a Week 4 blowout against Cleveland), but neither has the impact of Dobbins.
Baltimore has also activated veterans Melvin Gordon and Kenyan Drake this season, but neither has remained on the active 53-man roster.
What are we learning? Baltimore has a running back left that teams haven’t seen in hopes of solving its “work in progress” backfield. The Ravens have yet to activate him off I.R., but if you have space on the bench, or an injured reserve slot in your league, stash him. He may be the person to alleviate pressure off Lamar Jackson and Edwards once healthy.
Mitchell is worth 1-5 percent of your remaining FAAB and checks in at RB79 (+22 vs ECR) on The Wolf’s Rest of Season Rankings.