East Carolina 2023 NFL Draft Scouting Reports Include Holton Ahlers, C.J. Johnson, and Keaton Mitchell

With just three East Carolina NFL Draft prospects being drafted in the past decade, will any of their 2023 prospects be the next? Let’s take a look at the East Carolina scouting reports to see if any of the Pirates’ players will join their teammates in being selected in the NFL Draft.

East Carolina 2023 NFL Draft Scouting Reports

C.J. Johnson, WR

Strengths: Large, possession receiver coming off a career season. Displays eye/hand coordination, adjusts to the errant throw, and consistently makes the reception away from his frame. Tracks the pass in the air, gets vertical, and contorts to make the reception over defenders.

Displays soft, as well as, strong hands and plucks the ball from the air. Keeps the play in bounds and works to pick up positive yardage after the catch. Plays like a big-bodied receiver, uses his frame to shield away defenders, and breaks tackles after the catch.

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Weaknesses: Displays average quickness into routes and tends to round off breaks. Must improve his playing balance. Plays to one speed, possesses average quickness, and is minimally effective after the catch.

Overall: Johnson comes off a sensational season for East Carolina, where he totaled 10 receiving touchdowns and doubled most of his other pass-catching numbers. He’s a reliable possession wideout who is most effective running short and intermediate routes. Johnson’s size and strength are assets.

Holton Ahlers, QB

Strengths: Productive four-year starter coming off a career campaign in 2022. Effective with ball fakes, patient in the pocket, and takes a big hit in order to get the throw away. Elusive enough to scramble away from defenders, gets outside the pocket to avoid the rush, and keeps his eyes downfield. Quickly locates the underneath receiver or safety-valve outlet.

Spreads the ball around to all his targets, is always in control of the situation, and throws with an over-the-top delivery. Relatively accurate, doesn’t have receivers working hard to make the reception, and displays a sense of timing on throws. Goes through progressions and looks off the primary receiver. Has a solid arm and puts speed on throws. Senses the rush and steps up to avoid defenders.

Weaknesses: Has an elongated delivery that slows his release. Not a quarterback you’ll use on designed runs. Protected the ball better last season but has thrown a lot of interceptions in the past.

Overall: Despite entering the season with more than 10,000 yards passing, Ahlers was considered a street free agent by scouts. He showed significant improvement last year, throwing for more than 3,700 yards, hitting on 28 touchdown passes, and completing 67% of his throws. He has pocket-passer size and is best in the short and intermediate game. Though he won’t be drafted, I fully expect Ahlers to challenge for a No. 3 QB spot on a roster next summer.

Isaiah Winstead, WR

Strengths: Nice-sized receiver who came to East Carolina by way of Norfolk State then Toledo. Comes back to the ball out of breaks, adjusts to the errant throw, and uses his frame to shield away defenders. Steady wideout who is effective when extending his hands to make the reception away from his frame and makes the difficult catch in a battle. Gives effort blocking downfield and gets results. Shows a lot of quickness.

Weaknesses: Poor route runner. Plays like an average athlete. Drops some easy receptions.

Overall: Winstead is not talked about much in the scouting community, but he has a terrific build and has shown enough pass-catching ability to be brought into camp this summer.

Keaton Mitchell, RB

Strengths: Small, but explosive running back who creates yardage. Displays great vision, finds the running lanes, and squeezes through the small openings of the offensive line. Displays a burst of speed that he turns on in a single step and is fast enough to beat defenders around the corner.

A multi-cut ball carrier who possesses outstanding footwork, strings several moves together over the course of a single run, and makes defenders miss. Loses no momentum changing direction or avoiding defenders.

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Weaknesses: Not a big or powerful ball carrier and is easily brought down at the point by a single defender. At times, does too much east/west running. Gets run over as a blocker. Not a natural pass catcher.

Overall: Mitchell is an explosive RB, with the ability to score whenever the ball is in his hands. He comes with size limitations and must improve his pass-catching ability to make a roster. Mitchell’s speed, quickness, and ability to create yardage do set him up perfectly as a potential third-down back.

Want more information on Mitchell? Here’s our expanded scouting report and draft profile: Keaton Mitchell, RB, East Carolina | NFL Draft Scouting Report

Noah Henderson, OT

Strengths: Large offensive tackle who blocks with solid fundamentals. Bends his knees, gets leverage on opponents, and turns defenders from the action. Effective with his hands, stays square, and anchors in pass protection. Outstanding position blocker who seals defenders from the action.

Weaknesses: Lacks footwork in pass protection and plays back on his heels. Lacks balance and is all over the place. Falls off blocks rather than finishing off opponents.

Overall: Henderson possesses outstanding size, yet he’s an average athlete who must improve his blocking balance to have any chance at the next level.

Ryan Jones, TE

Strengths: Former Oklahoma linebacker who transferred to East Carolina, moved to tight end, and has shown a lot of ability the past two seasons. Displays good route discipline, finds ways to come free, and consistently settles into the open spot of the defense.

Offers the quarterback a big target, extends his hands, and snatches the ball out of the air. Sturdy pass catcher, who easily adjusts to the errant throw and keeps the play in bounds. Displays outstanding focus as well as concentration. Tough and effective blocking downfield.

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Weaknesses: Ineffective running after the catch. Must improve his route running. Average in-line blocker.

Overall: Jones really watched his game take off after moving to tight end and found his next-level position. He possesses the size, speed, and athleticism to be used as a move TE. Jones is a development prospect, who should be stashed on a practice squad this fall.

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