On April 1, I told my readers that Mitchell would be a good fit with the Patriots. Find out why.
I rated Mitchell the No.8 receiver in the pre-draft edition of the publication. Here’s my profile of the former Georgia receiver based on play-by-play film study (also included in the publication) according to my detailed, transparent process of player evaluation.
For those of you RSP veterans, I’ll have an announcement about the 2017 pre-order period next week.
So far, Mitchell is meeting expectations and maybe even exceeding them in terms of learning curve.
Malcolm Mitchell, UGA (6-0, 198)
If the New England Patriots select a receiver in the middle rounds of this draft, I won’t be surprised if it’s Mitchell. My reasoning for this is probably based on what someone would consider a meaningless aspect of Mitchell’s resume, but the Patriots like versatile football players who have experience playing multiple positions. The Bulldogs receiver had a brief stint at cornerback for Georgia when the team needed depth due to team suspensions that hurt the roster.
Ravens receiver Marlon Brown faced Mitchell in practice and praised him for his quickness, skill at delivering a punch, and sneakiness at staying in a receiver’s hip pocket. Mitchell actually notched five tackles against Vanderbilt in 2012. The experience was an illustration of a heady, athletic football player—the kind that appeals to Bill Belichick.
And Mitchell wasn’t placed at the position because he couldn’t catch. It wasn’t a permanent move; he was an underclassman who was skilled enough to do the work and expendable for such an emergency. Mitchell is an underrated NFL prospect as a receiver because he’s a skilled player who, due to injury and a run-first offense, doesn’t have the stats that earn a player notoriety when he lacks plus size or speed.
A quick-twitch player with balance, Mitchell bursts off the line and effectively sells the prospect of every pattern as a potential vertical route. His three-step release and chop gets him downfield against press coverage and he has a good rip move as an effective change-up.
Once past the line, Mitchell executes straight stems to disguise his intentions. If he decides to bend the stem in a direction, it’s usually a subtle move to widen a defender’s alignment and set up a break inside.
If you’ve read the profiles of the prospects ranked ahead of Mitchell, many of these players can either drop their hips or limit their transition from stem to break with one step. But there aren’t many that can consistently perform both actions. Mitchell can.
He’s also sudden with his turns on speed breaks, gets his head around to the quarterback immediately, and breaks at the proper depth so he can work to the quarterback, attack the ball, and earn the yardage intended by the route design.
Mitchell has a cornerback’s mentality in tight coverage. He makes plays over defenders, steals the ball from their grasp when they have position, and is skilled at making late adjustments on the target.
On balls meant to be caught in stride, Mitchell has the flexibility and coordination to turn against the momentum of his break and win the ball. His form on low throws is well coached, too. His only significant flaw as a pass catcher is that he can be late to get his arms to the ball on quick-breaking routes. I’ve seen him allow targets to fly through his hands.
He must also improve his ball security when he transitions from receiver to runner. The ball lingers wide from his body in two hands or wide in one hand too long after the initial catch.
A skilled return specialist, Mitchell works the open field with a similar efficiency. He can run through glancing blows, desperation reaches, and some wraps to his body and, intersperse a variety of moves to eliminate angles of pursuit and set up his blocks. His skill to balance-touch (stick his hand in the ground after losing his balance as a way to regain his stride) is underrated.
When Mitchell gets into position early and closes the gap between himself and an opponent he’s an effective shield blocker. His punch lacks the force that he’s capable of delivering. The first priority towards improving his strikes is to set his angles faster so he can set his feet and deliver from an anchored stance. His slow diagnosis of setting position puts him in a position where he’s often chasing the defender for the length of his assignment until the whistle blows.
Georgia players during the past 25 years—think Hines Ward—have often had better NFL careers than their college output would have suggested. Before that, lackluster coaching failed to develop excellent recruits. Some will claim this was also true with the Mark Richt era at Georgia, but I think it has more to do with the rise of the SEC.
Whatever the reason, Mitchell is a solid receiver with athletic skills and dimensions similar to Jeremy Maclin. The fact that Mitchell also displays the focus, craft, and toughness of an NFL vet makes him a receiver to watch.
Pre-NFL Draft Fantasy Advice: Because NFL teams have a positive association with most Georgia players and Mitchell performed well prior to the draft, there’s a good shot he’ll be a mid-round prospect. Fantasy owners will probably draft him sometime in the third or fourth round. He’s worth that kind of price and a smart choice due to his potential return on investment.
For analysis of skill players in the 2017 draft class, pre-order a login for the 2017 Rookie Scouting Portfolio – early-bird purchase discount for April 1 download available now through January 6, 2017. Better yet, if you’re a fantasy owner the Post-Draft Add-on comes with the 2012 – 2017 RSPs at no additional charge. Best, yet, 10 percent of every sale is donated to Darkness to Light to combat sexual abuse. You can purchase past editions of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio for just $9.95 apiece.