Less than a week into training camp, the 2017 Baltimore Ravens preseason darling has already been identified. Undrafted free agent running back Taquan ‘Smoke’ Mizzell has the fanbase buzzing with excitement.
Mizzell is an undersized playmaker from Virginia. In four collegiate seasons with the Cavaliers, he accumulated 3,623 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns. Mizzell averaged 4.5 yards per carry and 8 yards per reception He also chipped in 683 yards on 39 kickoff returns.
The scouting report says Mizzell is nimble, quick and elusive with plus vision and hands. Running between the tackles is not his strength. His optimal fit in the NFL is likely as a change of pace back who can move the chains catching the ball out of the backfield.
A knee injury suffered by promising tailback Kenneth Dixon has opened the door for the young runners on the Ravens depth chart. Baltimore is expected to use Terrance West as the early down workhorse, with veteran acquisition Danny Woodhead serving as the third down back. The team needs to find quality depth behind Woodhead. As a 32 year old scatback who has missed the majority of the season in two of the last three years, the veteran comes to Baltimore with concerning injury risk. Mizzell certainly fits this bill.
Mizzell impressed with his route running on the first day of full team practice. His competition for the backup running back job includes power back Lorenzo Taliaferro, receiving specialist Javorius Allen and recent re-acquisition Bobby Rainey. There is probably room for two of these players to make the final regular season roster after fullback Kyle Juszczyk departed in free agency.
Mizzell could also factor into the returner competition. The Ravens have many young players vying for the job, including several recent draft picks, undrafted rookies and recent signings. Often, these back of the roster players separate the contenders from the pretenders once the season begins.
‘Smoke’ Mizzell is definitely someone to monitor throughout training camp and the preseason games. He could be the next in a long line of undrafted running backs to make an impact in the NFL.