New England Patriots 2016 NFL Draft Review, Grades

Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports /
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New England Patriots
Georgia Bulldogs wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell (26) – Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports /

Fourth Round: 112th overall

WR Malcolm Mitchell, Georgia

Grade: A

Oddly enough, it is the fourth round pick who is likely to be in position to make the biggest impact in 2016. MItchell is an example of the Patriots brass taking a receiver with experience and comfort running option routes rather than an athletic lump of clay who could never get on the same page as quarterback Tom Brady.

In the New England offense wide receiver Julian Edelman brings a quarterback mentality to the wide receiver position and tight end Rob Gronkowski–despite his party boy persona–is highly intelligent between the white lines. Both receivers are simpatico with Brady on the field and reap the benefits on the stat line. Danny Amendola–despite some experience with the offense having been in St. Louis with Josh McDaniels prior to being signed to replace Wes Welker–did not start contributing until he earned Brady’s trust on the field.

The list of wide receivers who could not master the offense and flamed out in New England is long and too long to list here. Basically, the receivers who worked out in New England had a very high football IQ (Randy Moss, Deion Branch) and those who did not could not see the defense and react as Brady expected them to do (Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, Chad Jackson).

Mitchell may not have the wingspan, athleticism, and size of Aaron Dobson but he should be able to beat him out for an outside wide receiver role in the offense as a rookie. Former Patriots fourth round draft pick Josh Boyce had all the measurables but could not get on the field and earn the trust of Brady. Rather than drafting an athlete, the Patriots drafted a receiver with an understanding of the offense they run.

Mitchell will compete with free agent signing Chris Hogan initially on the outside for playing time (barring an amazing resurgence by Dobson) and should be safe from unrealistic expectations as the spotlight will be on Hogan. The wild card is Danny Amendola and his onerous contract if he fails to restructure it before training camp. If Amendola goes, there are more snaps available for the rest of the wide receivers.

Mitchell has the advantage of already having run pro style routes and has excellent hands. On game tape he has shown he has the knowledge to generate separation with body movement and plays bigger on the sidelines than his five-foot-eleven frame would indicate. He had some shake-and-bake in the open field that fits with the successful New England wide receiver profile.

Mitchell may not be the most athletic, the most talented, or the fastest or strongest wide receiver in the NFL Draft but he is one of the best fits for the offense run by the Patriots. He was a smart draft pick who will outperform some more athletic wide receivers drafted ahead of him over the years.