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Rookie receiver Malcolm Mitchell may beat Deion Branch's rookie stats

New England's promising rookie receiver is posting numbers that are inching closer and closer to one of the Patriots' best receivers of all time's rookie year.

Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Pop quiz, nerds: does this stat line ring a bell?

11 catches, 133 yards.

Aside from what Gronk would call a normal Sunday, that also should take you on a one-way ticket to NostalgiaVille - specifically, to a much simpler time in 2004, when Deion Branch posted those numbers in Super Bowl XXXIX, en route to a Super Bowl MVP and New England's third Lombardi Trophy in four seasons.

2003 was Branch's second season in the league, and as far as making the cliché "second year leap" is concerned, he sure did - Deion went from catching 43 passes for 489 yards and 2 touchdowns his in his freshman campaign to hauling in 57 receptions for 803 yards and 3 scores, and, of course, then went on to win that whole Super Bowl MVP thing in 2004.

Now that we've got that on the table, and hopefully you've had a little fun with all the memories, as you may have heard, there's another rookie receiver in town that's making a name for himself this year - and a lot of people didn't think the kid would play this season at all.

Rookie wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell, of course, had that god-awful why-are-you-showing-this-replay-over-and-over-again elbow injury in the preseason, which thankfully "only" turned out to be a dislocated elbow, but he's been on a tear lately, as the New York Jets (and others) can attest.

And now, with two games left on the regular season schedule, Mitchell was looking like he would at least match Deion Branch's rookie numbers, until a trip through the No Fly Zone in Denver knocked him off track a bit.  That said, he's still pretty darn close to Branch's rookie production so far:

2002 Deion Branch, like we said earlier, caught 43 passes for 489 yards and found the end zone twice in his first year.

2016 Malcolm Mitchell, through 14 games, has 29 receptions and 372 yards, but he's got Branch beat in the touchdown column - Mitchell's already scored 4 times this season.

Of course, pretty much all of that goodness has been in the last 6 weeks - after tallying just 7 receptions through Week 10 of the season, Malcolm exploded for 22 receptions in the last 5 weeks, including his 2-touchdown almost single-handed demolition of the Jets and his 8-grab game against the Rams.  At that point, it seemed like just a matter of when he would pass Branch's rookie yardage - Mitchell had 358 at the time to Branch's 489, with 3 games left and his snap count on the rise - and then Denver happened, where the still-gnarly No Fly Zone held him to 1 catch for 14 yards.

So, yeah, the odds of him catching Branch's 43 passes won't be easy, given that he's 14 short at the moment.  Beating the yardage mark, though, is totally within the realm of possibility - Mitchell is "only" short of Branch's 489 yards by 117, meaning he'd have to get about 59 yards in both of the next two games to match it.

He's already had two games this season where he's torched that number - and for you "Well, ACTUALLY" people that are about to point out that Mitchell's two best games were against the 49ers and the Rams...have you seen the Jets defense lately?

If Matt freaking Moore and the Dolphins can hang 4 passing touchdowns on the Jets defense, this week's matchup at Gillette Stadium might make into "Stop! Stop! He's already dead!" territory real quick.

Oh, and there's one more thing Mitchell has going for him - in the five weeks since the Patriots played the Seahawks (and I don't have to tell you who got hurt in that game), Mitchell's snap count percentages have looked like this:

Week 10, vs San Francisco: 85.7%

Week 11, vs New York: 46.6% (and two touchdowns on that lower count, ironically)

Week 12, vs Los Angeles: 84.8%

Week 13, vs Baltimore: 78.3%

Week 14, vs Denver: 89.3%

Bottom line, everything's lining up for Mitchell to carpe the diem and post numbers to close out his rookie season that'll put him toe to toe with one of the most beloved Patriots of all time.

Well, let's backtrack a sec - close out the regular season, that is.  There's always the playoffs after New England gets some R&R after their (probable) first-round bye.

Records are made to be broken, right?