We have entered the quietest parts of the NFL offseason. Free agency and the draft are behind us, while minicamp and training camp won't start until next week and late July, respectively.
However, while the football world seemingly turns slower these days it does not stop. After all, by late August, each team has to start making its roster cuts. Until then, players have to secure their spots on the team; they need to do their jobs (well) or someone else will.
Over the course of the next few weeks, we will take a look at the men fighting for those spots on the 2016 New England Patriots. Today, we'll take a look at rookie wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell.
Name: Malcolm Mitchell
Position: Wide receiver
Jersey number: 19
Size: 5'11, 200 lbs.
2015 review: In 2015 – two years removed from an ACL tear that forced him to miss virtually the entire 2013 season and parts of the 2014 season – Malcolm Mitchell had his best collegiate season. He appeared in all 13 games and finished his senior year at Georgia with 58 catches, 865 yards and five touchdowns. His 14.9 yards per catch, for comparison, would have been the second-highest number on the 2015 Patriots.
The wideout was a steady contributor and caught at least two passes in each of the Bulldogs' games. His best single-game performances came against South Carolina (8 catches, 122 yards, 1 touchdowns) and in Georgia's bowl game victory over Penn State (5 catches, 114 yards, 1 touchdown).
In both games – just like he did the entire season – Mitchell led his team in receptions and yards. Even more impressive is the fact that he accounted for 35.9% of his team's total 2015 aerial yardage. In short: he consistently produced as Georgia's number one receiving option.
Furthermore, he was named offensive captain by his teammates and earned multiple honors for his off-field work in the community. Prior to the season, he published his first children's book "The Magician's Hat".
2016 preview: The Patriots do not have the best record when it comes to picking wide receivers early in the draft. So, why should Mitchell be any different? There are two reasons for optimism: his college production and the offensive scheme he played in.
As noted above, Mitchell was Georgia's best and most consistent receiving option in 2015 – showing an ability to carry an offense when needed. Unlike most of New England's early round wide receiver draft choices, he also comes from a pro style offense and has experience running the routes the Patriots' coaching staff asks of its pass catchers.
Added up and combined with his intangibles, Mitchell has a very good chance of beating out Aaron Dobson and Nate Washington to make the roster as one of New England's outside receivers. And free agency acquisition and roster lock Chris Hogan is projected to see more snaps in 2016, Mitchell has the talent and potential for growth to still see valuable playing time as an "X"-receiver his rookie year.
In order to make it happen, the 23-year old has already taken his first steps, skipping the NFL's rookie premiere to study New England's playbook.
Since Bill Belichick took over as the Patriots' head coach in 2000, the team has drafted eight wide receivers in the top four rounds. Of the first seven, only Deion Branch was able to find prolonged success.
If the eighth, Malcolm Mitchell, is able to join Branch as a successful early wideout selection remains to be seen. He has the tools to do just that but needs to lay the foundation in 2016 to reach his potential.