FOXBORO, Mass. — The New England Patriots frustrated fans with their third-round picks Friday, selecting three players who were expected to be selected far later in the draft.
They made up for it with the 112th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, when they made a splash selection with Georgia wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, who seems to perfectly fit the Patriots’ offense.
Mitchell, who’s 6 feet, 198 pounds, fits the Patriots’ typical testing numbers after running a 4.45-second 40-yard dash with a 1.55-second 10-yard split, 36-inch vertical leap, 10-foot, 9-inch broad jump, 6.94-second 3-cone and 4.34-second short shuttle. He also has huge 10 1/2-inch hands and 32 5/8-inch arms. The Patriots typically like receivers who run a 4.4 40-yard dash and sub seven-second 3-cone.
Mitchell is slightly shorter than a typical “X” receiver, but he has the skill set to play that position for the Patriots. He’s known as one of the best route runners in the draft and has experience playing in a pro-style offense.
The Patriots typically take projects at wide receiver who come from spread offenses but can run fast in a straight line. Mitchell should be able to overcome some of the issues other rookie receivers have had in learning the Patriots’ offense quickly because of his experience and route-running ability. It helps that he’s also a great athlete.
Mitchell fell to the fourth round because of two knee injuries in college. He tore his ACL and missed the entire 2013 season. He also didn’t have elite college production. Georgia briefly considered moving him to cornerback.
Mitchell ranked high in Pro Football Focus’ yards per route run metric in 2015, however. He had 845 yards on 93 targets and 327 routes run for 2.58 yards per route run. Mitchell dropped just three passes in his senior season at Georgia and caught eight passes on 22 targets over 20 yards for 247 yards with three touchdowns and no drops.
Mitchell mostly served as an outside receiver at Georgia, playing in the slot on eight percent of his snaps. He caught six passes for 114 yards with one touchdown out of the slot.
The Patriots needed an injection of youth at receiver. Mitchell currently projects as the Patriots’ No. 5 or 6 wideout, joining Julian Edelman, Danny Amendola, Chris Hogan, Keshawn Martin, Nate Washington, Aaron Dobson, DeAndre Carter and Matthew Slater on their receiver depth chart.
The Patriots have had issues drafting receivers in the past, but Mitchell breaks their typical mold with his play on the field. After a day of frustration for Patriots fans, Mitchell starts off Day 3 with a bang.
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