Malcolm Mitchell - 2016
- 14 games
- 32 receptions for 401 yards
- 4 touchdowns
- 12.5 yards per reception
- Most memorable performance: Super Bowl 51
When you think of some of the best one-hit-wonder seasons in Patriots history, it's fair to say that Malcolm Mitchell is at the top of nearly everyone's list.
Not only does he fit into that category, but you could argue he's also become one of New England's most prominent "what could have been" stories, which will forever be difficult for most fans to let go of.
A fourth-round draft pick out of Georgia, Mitchell joined the Patriots during a pinnacle time for the franchise. They were just one year removed from winning Super Bowl 49 and barely missed their chance to make it to Super Bowl 50. Now they were making their way back to a deep post-season run, with rookie Mitchell making an impact early on.
During Tom Brady's career, it was never common for the quarterback to trust and utilize rookie receivers, especially when his offense consisted of some of his most trusted pass catchers, like Danny Amendola, Julian Edelman, and Rob Gronkowski. But Mitchell was involved immediately, and his contributions grew as the season continued.
It all came to a head during Super Bowl 51 against the Atlanta Falcons.
The Patriots found themselves in a deep hole early on, trailing 28-3 with just two minutes left in the third quarter. Brady turned to his most productive players, Amendola, Edelman, and James White. But Mitchell was included in that group during the comeback attempt.
He was one of the only receivers to have a nearly perfect night, catching six of seven receptions for 70 yards, and his performance played a significant role in winning Lombardi number five.
The future looked bright for Mitchell, and fans were excited to see what the young receiver would do. However, life had other plans.
In September of the following season, he was placed on injured reserve and could not return to the field that year. Continuing to deal with a nagging knee injury in 2018, the Patriots waived Mitchell before the start of the season, and in March of the following year, he announced he was retiring from football.
It was an absolute gut punch to all the fans who had such high hopes for what he could bring to the team, particularly after seeing how well he did in a high-pressure game like Super Bowl 51. And it was a sad ending for a player with all the potential in the world.
The good thing, though, is Mitchell has gone on to do beautiful things in his retirement. He has written children's books, started a foundation, Read With Malcolm, which focuses on inspiring kids to read and continues to work with schools in New England communities.