The Jacksonville Jaguars signed Illinois State running back James Robinson as an undrafted free agent in 2020. He did enough in a truncated training camp to push the team to cut Leonard Fournette, taking over as Jacksonville’s lead back and never letting go of the job.
Robinson missed the final two games of last season with an ankle injury. In 14 games, he had 240 carries (sixth-most in the league) for 1,070 yards (tied for fifth in the league) and seven touchdowns. He was also heavily involved as a pass catcher, with 49 receptions (on 60 targets) for 344 yards and three more scores. To say he was a nice find is an understatement, as he thrived in a tough big picture situation.
In this year’s draft process, there’s the top end running backs-Najee Harris and Travis Etienne. Some analysts like the North Carolina running backs (Javonte Williams, Michael Carter). There are some others further down the board who are intriguing.
Ranked as the 166th overall prospect and No. 13 among running backs by CBS Sports, there’s Louisiana’s Elijah Mitchell. In 10 games for the Ragin’ Cajuns last year he rushed for 878 yards (6.2 yards per carry) with eight touchdowns. He first emerged as a sophomore in 2018, with 985 yards and 13 touchdowns on 6.7 yards per carry. He followed that in 2019 with over 1,100 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground. Simply put, there is a lot to like about him.
Elijah Mitchell, 2021’s James Robinson?
At 5-foot-10, 201 pounds at his Pro Day, Mitchell ran a blazing 40-yard dash.
Mitchell is more potential than production as a pass catcher based on his college resume. He’s also not considered a great pass blocker. If he lands in the right spot, with a combination of system fit and opportunity, he could make an big immediate impact as a rookie. Maybe an even bigger impact than Robinson in 2020.