Patriots: 5 best rookie seasons in recent Pats history

Dont'a Hightower and Devin McCourty. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Dont'a Hightower and Devin McCourty. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) /
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Malcolm Mitchell
Malcolm Mitchell. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

3. Malcolm Mitchell, 2016

Just uttering his name will bring wide grins to Patriots fan’s faces. Malcolm Mitchell. See?

The fourth-round pick in 2016 was unusually hyped as a great addition to the Patriots’ roster, but it’s safe to say he lived up to it. In the regular season, he played in 14 games and racked up 32 receptions for 401 yards and four touchdowns, a production rate that blew his No. 112 overall positioning out of the water.

But it was his performance in Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons that cemented his name in Patriots rookie history. In an unbelievable 25-point comeback spearheaded by none other than Tom Brady, Mitchell came up clutch with six catches for 70 yards. Compared to his peers, Mitchell wasn’t blazingly fast and didn’t possess other-worldly acrobatic skills. But in that game, he played smart, he was solid, and he reaped the benefits of his own dependability.

Notching a Super Bowl win – especially THAT Super Bowl win – began his first chapter with New England in the most thrilling way possible, but Mitchell’s career might be viewed as “what could have been” rather than what it was. Nagging knee injuries kept him sidelined until he eventually left professional football altogether. Yet his freshman season was something special, and his talents and contributions in that historic game will live on.