Don't worry, this isn't just a random piece. This is an in-depth look at our pick at 177th overall in the fifth round, James Mitchell, TE out of Virginia Tech. Hopefully, you can see why the title is what it is with that context. I could be crude and make a racy joke based on "tight end", but I don't want to incur the wrath of the censors. I could also do a boring title as I did for my Kerby Joseph piece, but I also don't want you to think that I'm dull. So, we settle for a middle ground; a title with a pun in it that also (fingers crossed for this) gets you intrigued enough to click.
With that out of the way, I now move on to an apology. I have had most of the notes for this piece on my laptop for the past couple of weeks, but real-life demands (read: being an actual adult and working) have gotten in the way and taken me far away from the pleasant land of scouting and writing. I hope you can forgive me, and still give me the courtesy of a read despite this coming out later than most other platforms have already released their pieces on Mitchell. However, I stand to argue that this also gives me the advantage of cross-referencing my own thoughts to make sure that you, my dear reader (scratch that, it's too Bridgerton for most tastes), get the best information possible. Now, after all that huballo, onto the stuff you're actually here for...
James Mitchell, TE, Virginia Tech/Detroit Lions
2021: 2 games played
5 receptions on 7 targets (71.4%) for 42 yards (8.2 avg.) and 1 touchdown, 1 rushing attempt for 1 yard
Alignments: 18 snaps in-line, 10 snaps in the slot, 30 overall pass snaps
Athletic Comparison (MockDraftable): Dedrick Epps (99%)
Consensus Ranking: TE12 (was 13th off the board), 162nd overall (taken 177th overall)
Game Watched: vs UNC (2021) [due to Mitchell only playing two games because of his injury, I was restricted to this one game]
In the game against the Tar Heels, I counted five snaps of note where Mitchell was in pass protection. In two of these snaps, he is lined up as the middle receiver in a trio bunch and acts as the lead blocker for a WR bubble screen. On both occasions, he does a good job. On the other three snaps, he is lined up in-line. On one of these, he is blocking on an RPO, so while he does a good job, this is partially due to the play call. On another, he works well as part of a double team to keep Burmeister clean. Overall, Mitchell demonstrated good pass blocking in my opinion.
In my opinion (and that of our glorious College Podcast hosts), Mitchell's run blocking is unrated. After all, then HC Fuente did say that the thing the team missed most about Mitchell after his injury was his blocking. Against the Tar Heels, I counted fifteen notable snaps where he was acting as a run blocker. On one of these, the run goes to the weak side but Mitchell still does a good job holding the backside of the run from the slot. There were a number of snaps where he held the point of attack well, blocking well at the line of scrimmage. Additionally, there were a few occasions he moves up to the second level well after securing the line of scrimmage to help the back gain more yards. There were three plays in particular that stood out to me. The first was a check-and-release from an in-line position, where he jams the edge before moving to the second level and blocking Ja'Qurious Conley so Burmeister could run into the endzone unopposed. The second was a good block on a third-and-one for a new set of downs. The last was his last run blocking snap, where despite it being late in the game, he still puts all his effort in, draws in a linebacker and blocks him out of the running lane. For the most part, Mitchell was matched up on Conley for the game, and he won that battle in my opinion. This was because of his "violence", a word that our coaches have attached to Hutchinson, but that word also pops out to me in relation to Mitchell. In my opinion, with a bit of coaching on his technique, Mitchell could serve greatly in this department.
It is worth noting that in high school, Mitchell was both a TE and a WR, which shows up in his route running ability. I counted ten routes ran for Mitchell against UNC. On five of these, he received no target. The first of these was a good drag route. The second was a decent corner route, though Mitchell's "plodding" run style was on show on this route. On another, he runs a good curl from the slot and uses his body to box out the defender. Likewise, he also received no target on a good seam route. On the final of these routes, he runs a really good post, but this was only as a clearout for an underneath option. On his first catch of the game, he lines up in-line before motioning across the formation, running a wheel route and using his body to box the defender out of the catch. Virginia Tech attempted the same play later in the game, but Burmeister was sacked before getting the ball away. They also ran a similar play where Mitchell does a check-and-release before running his wheel route, but Burmeister was hit on his release, leading to an underthrown ball. Mitchell's best receiving play of the game was naturally his touchdown. In the play, he is lined up out wide and runs a post. He uses his frame to get separation from the two defenders in the area of the endzone with him and makes a great high point catch for six points. Given how good his receiving skills look on tape, we can hope to wave goodbye to the days when you could guess whether we were running or passing the ball based on which of our tight ends was on the field.
James Mitchell has perhaps landed in the best spot possible for him. Our coaching staff boasts three members who all have experience coaching his position group; Dan Campbell, Ben Johnson, and Tanner Engstrand (who became the de facto tight ends coach when Johnson took over offensive coordinator responsibilities during last season). He also has landed with one of the best offensive line coaches in the league in Hank Fraley, who could help refine his blocking even more. If any team could turn a prospect who is at worst a third-round talent who fell because of an injury into a reliable tight end in all facets of the game, it is ours. This is not to say that Mitchell is weak in any of these areas in particular. He demonstrates good run- and pass blocking on tape, and he has good hands and receiving skills.
He even has experience at QB, and was Virginia Tech's emergency QB if the First Bite episode of the PoD cast on Mitchell is to be believed. Therefore, not only does Mitchell have the on-field talent, but his demeanour matches what our front office is looking for. Mitchell has that "next man up" mentality about him, is academically proficient, and supposedly signs every autograph possible after games. What more could we ask from a fifth-round pick? Despite his injury, I believe Mitchell will make the initial 53 man roster, even if it's to be placed on "short-term" IR the next day (if Mitchell is placed on IR before this point, his rookie season is over and is effectively a redshirt season). However, I firmly predict that by the end of the season, Mitchell will have solidified himself as our TE2 behind Hock.
What do you think of Mitchell? Do you think he could become a long term part of our team, or am I drinking the Kool-Aid a bit too much and expecting a lot out of a late-round pick?
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