Give or take a quarterback convert, the 2016 NFL draft saw 32 wide receivers selected.
Malcolm Mitchell checked in as the 11th.
The Georgia product’s rookie campaign with the New England Patriots would go on to rank higher than his No. 112 overall positioning, though. By the time the 16-game regular season had drawn to a close, Mitchell’s production had exceeded a handful of the receivers taken before him, and even managed to rival the first one off the board.
The soon-to-be 24-year-old will look follow it up on a Patriots depth chart that now features Brandin Cooks alongside Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan and Danny Amendola in 2017. But, with the help of Pro Football Reference, it’s worth taking one last look back at how Mitchell stacked up among his fellow draftmates out wide in 2016.
Through games, starts, targets, catches, yards and touchdowns – the answer is quite well.
- 14 – tied for third-most among drafted receivers
A dislocated elbow did not keep Mitchell away for long. Out of preseason action, he entered into 14 games, missing an Oct. 30 matchup with the Buffalo Bills and a New Year’s Day tilt with the Miami Dolphins due to hamstring and knee injuries, respectively. And he finished the slate as one of the 16 drafted wideouts that appeared in at least 14 regular-season contests.
On the other hand, nearly half of the receivers drafted played in 10 games or fewer, including four who were picked before Mitchell in first-rounders Corey Coleman, Josh Doctson and Laquon Treadwell, as well as third-rounder Braxton Miller.
- Six – tied for fifth-most among drafted receivers
Though starts at the split-end, slot and flanker receiver spots vary greatly based on a team’s use of two-back or two-tight end personnel, Mitchell got the nod six times last regular season. The eventual Super Bowl LI champion was one of seven drafted wideouts to start at least six contests.
Six may not seem like much on the surface. However, the only route-runner drafted after Mitchell that proceeded start more games was Tajae Sharpe – a fifth-round choice of the Tennessee Titans – who netted 10.
- 48 – eighth-most among drafted receivers
Mitchell was the intended recipient of 48 throws from Patriots signal-callers Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett and Tom Brady last season. As for how much weight that held, seven drafted wideouts drew more targets as rookies in 2016, with Coleman’s 73 for the Cleveland Browns looming as the next-closest.
But Coleman and Mitchell – taken 97 spots from each other in May – reached the conclusion of the year just one completion apart.
- 32 – eighth-most among drafted receivers
Mitchell reeled in a total of 32 passes during his rookie showing with the Patriots. That output stood eighth among receivers drafted in 2016, behind Coleman’s 33, Sharpe’s 41, Will Fuller’s 47, Tyler Boyd’s 54, Tyreek Hill’s 61, Sterling Shepard’s 65 and Michael Thomas’ staggering 92 with the New Orleans Saints.
Mitchell, Sharpe and Hill – who earned first-team All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors as a returner for the Kansas City Chiefs – were the only day-three wideouts to accumulate north of 20 receptions as rookies. That proved to be no small feat; it is a mark that four receivers taken over the first three rounds of the draft failed to hit.
- 401 – eighth-most among drafted receivers
Despite mustering a modest 95 receiving yards through the initial 10 weeks of the season, Mitchell strung together 306 over the following six weeks and had 401 to his name by the time the playoffs arrived. The fourth-rounder’s late surge in receiving yardage landed him eighth among all drafted wideouts, in the footsteps of the aforementioned Coleman, Sharpe, Hill, Boyd, Fuller, Shepard and Thomas.
Of whom, only Thomas surpassed 1,000 yards. The best of the rest stood below the 700-yard tier by the finale.
- Four – fourth-most among drafted receivers
Mitchell did not have a touchdown on his NFL resume until Nov. 20 versus the San Francisco 49ers. But from that point through the Dec. 12 encounter with the Baltimore Ravens, he crossed into the end zone on four occasions. As far as receiving touchdowns from the 2016 draft class go, that was good for fourth in the league behind Hill’s six, Shepard’s eight and Thomas’ nine.
And as far as things go in Foxborough, that was enough for Mitchell to match Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompkins for the most by a rookie Patriots receiver – drafted or undrafted – in the era of head coach Bill Belichick.