The New England Patriots have an ugly history of drafting wide receivers in early rounds. After grabbing Deion Branch in the 2nd round of the 2002 draft, Bill Belichick and company fumbles early picks from Bethel Johnson, to Chad Jackson, to Taylor Price, and to Aaron Dobson.
It seems positive that the bad streak ends here.
We've talked about why the Patriots have been terrible at drafting wide receivers. The team had historically focused on taking athletic freaks out of spread offenses instead of taking players that have succeeded inside a pro style attack.
Enter 4th round pick Malcolm Mitchell.
Mitchell played in a pro style offense at the University of Georgia under offensive coordinator, and former Jets coach, Brian Schottenheimer.
"Coach Schottenheimer immediately came into UGA with a professional mentality," Mitchell said to the media after his selection in the draft. "He had been doing it for so many years so the pace at which we would learn plays, the type of plays, the concepts, the adjustments, we got a big dose of that last year at UGA and honestly which I believe is going to prepare me for whatever comes next."
Mitchell has been incredibly successful, even with a poor quarterback situation, and some think he's a perfect fit for timing based offense like the Patriots due to his great route running ability. It also helps that he has experience running option routes.
"I had a lot of experience in [running option routes]," Mitchell said. "To be honest, the majority of our plays were scripted out that way so that's something that I'm comfortable with and I've been doing for four or five years already."
Option routes require the receiver to read the defense in the same way as the quarterback and adjust his route according to where the cornerback or safety or defender aligns across from him. Option routes are also why Patriots rookie wide receivers (and even some veterans) struggle to see time in the offense, and if Mitchell is comfortable in the system then his transition to the NFL will be a lot easier.
Mitchell is a former cornerback that has transitioned to wide receiver, so he understands how to set up defenders in order to generate separation. Based upon his college production and his experience in a pro style offense, he looks to be the team's best chance at breaking the bad-receiver streak in a long while.