Each Friday for the past several weeks, I have been featuring a ‘Prospect of the Week’ leading up to the 2021 NFL Draft. Today, you get a special treat. I’m double-dipping, giving you two prospects for the price of one (free, anyway!!) who could be of interest to the New York Giants a few weeks from now.
I have been focused recently on the idea that the Giants need to add at least one more running back to their stable behind Saquon Barkley and Devontae Booker, whether that is in the draft or via finding a low-cost veteran free agent.
Today, let’s look at a pair of highly-productive college running backs who could be available to the Giants on Day 3 of the draft.
Elijah Mitchell, Louisiana
Mitchell had a stellar college career. He gained 3,267 yards in 42 games, averaging 6.2 yards per carry and scoring 41 touchdowns. It isn’t that, though, that could lead anyone to connect the dots between Mitchell and the Giants.
It is the fact that Rob Sale, recently hired to be the Giants’ offensive line coach, was Mitchell’s offensive coordinator at Louisiana the past three seasons.
“Coach Sale, he’s an awesome coach. He really got our OLine right at UL,” Mitchell said. “He coached ‘em hard, but at the end of the day it works and he did a phenomenal job with our OLine.”
Mitchell is the 15th-ranked running back in Dane Brugler’s draft guide with a sixth-round grade. The Giants have a pair of sixth-round picks. Brugler, draft analyst for The Athletic, writes:
“Mitchell runs with terrific effort every time he touches the ball, slashing through gaps and flashing a burst to clear the first wave. While he attacks the line of scrimmage with a head of steam, he would benefit from improved patience and timing. Overall, Mitchell is an upright, angular runner and lacks creativity, but he runs on a fast track with toughness and reliable pass-catching traits. He projects as a possible NFL backup.”
Mitchell was projected to run somewhere between 4.5 and 4.6 seconds in the 40-yard dash this spring. At his pro day, though, Mitchell blazed to a 4.32 after dropping his weight from a season-ending 213 pounds to 201 pounds. He trained at the Michael Johnson Performance Center in Texas.
‘Shoutout to them (MJP trainers) for that. They really transformed my body into a pro,” Mitchell said. “That started with eating right, coming to workouts every day, working hard, getting the right treatment. Pro day came around and it all worked out for me.”
Mitchell hopes all of that work will help him at the NFL level.
“Just eating right it makes you feel energized. It makes you wake up and want to go work out,” Mitchell said. “You have energy from sleeping. Just all around just training and eating right helps your body be stronger and workout at MJP were awesome. They really challenge you.”
Matt Waldman of The Rookie Scouting Portfolio says in his annual draft guide that Patterson “has some developmental skills as a runner and the athletic ability to compete for a role on special teams.”
Could the surprising speed he showed at his pro day, the presence of Sale on the Giants’ coaching staff and the ability to play on special teams coverage units make him appealing to Joe Judge and the Giants?
Jaret Patterson, Buffalo
If you know Jaret Patterson’s name, that is most likely because you saw highlights of or heard about Patterson’s 409-yard, eight-touchdown game last season against Ken State. That’s the second-most yardage in a single game and tied for most touchdowns in a game in FBS history.
Patterson’s accomplishments, though, extend far beyond one extraordinary, record-setting game.
Patterson gained 1,072 yards rushing in 2020 in just six games, leading the FBS with an average of 178.7 yards rushing per game. He gained more than 1,000 yard rushing each of his three seasons and finished with 636 carries for 3,884 yards (6.1 yards per carry) and an astounding 52 touchdowns. He the MAC Offensive Player of the Year in 2020.
The 5-foot-6¼, 195-pound Patterson has a Rounds 5-6 grade in Brugler’s annual draft guide. He is Brugler’s 12th-ranked running back.
“A chunk-play creator in college, Patterson is a competitive runner with the vision and balance to pick through the defense and slalom around roadblocks. However, he feasted on some poor run fronts and tackling in the MAC, and his lack of explosiveness and contact power will make it much tougher to elude tacklers in the NFL. Overall, Patterson doesn’t have ideal size/power/speed of an early-down back or the pass-catching or blocking skills of a third-down back, but he runs with quick feet and boundless energy. He projects similar to a Myles Gaskin type of NFL runner.”
Gaskin was a seventh-round pick by the Miami Dolphins in 2019 and has gained 717 yards over the past two seasons while averaging 4.0 yards per carry.
After running a 4.58 40-yard dash at his pro day, Patterson told media via Zoom that he has not real desire to sell himself to NFL teams.
“I don’t really state my abilities. I feel like my mindset and how I approach the game is different from a lot of guys. I just feel like that separates me from the pack, how I handle my business on and off the field,” Patterson said. “It’s a job and I take it very seriously. I feel that will separate me when I do become a pro, whether I’m drafted or undrafted, it doesn’t really matter to me. It’s not how you get in, you’ve gotta stay in.”
Patterson has what Matt Waldman calls the best “indirect balance” of any back in the draft class. In his annual draft guide, Waldman says “Patterson has the low center of gravity to remain upright when hit in the torso by a defensive tackle. The hit will force him sideways 1-3 steps, but he’ll continue forward through the hit and force a second defender to wrap. He can also take a hit to his leg from a defensive end pursuing down the line and remain upright if not wrapped upon contact.”
Waldman also added that “Patterson might have the frame to add 15-20 pounds, but it’s less certain. If he can, we might be looking at a player with DeAngelo Williams’ upside. If not, expect Patterson to make his living as a contributor but not an in-demand starter.”
Patterson told media he has been working with Maurice Jones-Drew, who gained more than 8,000 yards in a nine-year career. Jones-Drew was 5-7, 210 pounds. Patterson said MJD has “been dropping a lot of hidden gems on me.”
Patterson caught only 20 passes in 32 collegiate games, none in 2020. He isn’t worried about needing to prove he can be a pass-catching back.
“I always could do that. I just wasn’t given the opportunity. If you have a dominant offensive line and a running back who’s getting 8 yards a pop, you’re not going to fix it, you’re going to stick with what’s working. I don’t blame nobody, we were winning, we were dominating teams with our run game, but I could always run routes, catch,” Patterson said. “In high school I was an athlete. I played corner, I played slot, I played safety. I feel like a lot of teams were surprised today [at his pro day] because I showed I can catch and run routes.”
Patterson attended St. Vincent Pallotti High School in Laurel, Md. and Buffalo was the only school to offer him a football scholarship.
“I wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school. I’ve had to work for everything I got,” Patterson said. “Really it doesn’t matter what people say. Just block out the noise, believe in yourself. Stats don’t matter. Size doesn’t matter. What matters is you get an opportunity and what you do with it. Chase your dreams, don’t let no one stop you.”
Could Patterson’s dreams lead him to the Giants?