The New England Patriots currently have the maximum of 90 players on their active roster. However, only 53 of them will be able to survive the cutdowns on September 1 and ultimately make the team. Over the next weeks, we will take a look at the players fighting for those spots to find out who has the best chances of helping the Patriots recapture the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
Today, the series continues with one of the Patriots’ wide receivers.
Name: Malcolm Mitchell
Position: Wide receiver
Jersey number: 19
Opening day age: 25
Size: 6’1, 200 lbs.
2017 review: Coming off an encouraging rookie campaign as the Patriots’ third/fourth wide receiver option, expectations were high for Malcolm Mitchell entering the 2017 season. However, things got off to a rocky start: The former fourth-round selection was held out of spring practices due to a knee issue and was still limited to individual drills when training camp opened.
His workload slowly increased and by the second week of preseason, Mitchell was back on the field playing 15 of 79 offensive snaps (19%) and catching two passes for 13 yards. The two receptions would remain his only in-game statistics of the year, though: Mitchell appeared to re-injure his knee and was ultimately placed on injured reserve a mere hours before New England’s regular season opener.
Eligible to be activated off the reserve list, the Georgia product was designated one of the team’s two return players in late December. While Mitchell re-joined practice, however, he was never promoted to the active 53-man roster after apparently reaggravating his knee injury. As a result, he returned to the injured reserve and spent the rest of the season on the sidelines.
2018 preview: After Mitchell spent virtually all of 2017 on injured reserve, the Patriots opted to take a cautious approach this offseason: The 24-year old saw only limited action during organized team activities and minicamp and has yet to participate in any full-team drills. The goal, obviously, is to get him ready for training camp while limiting the risk of another injury.
Mitchell, therefore, appears to be a candidate to at least begin training camp on the physically unable to perform list. But even if he does not and is already back at full strength in late July, the third-year man is no lock to make New England’s 53-man roster — despite a productive 2016 season and modest salary cap hit of just $774,498: His injury situation and the competition at wide receiver are all obstacles Mitchell needs to overcome to make the team.
Considering the upside he displayed during his rookie campaign, however, the odds still appear to be in his favor. And even if he starts the season on PUP or shows some rust during training camp, Mitchell should be expected to see the field at one point this year as a rotational wide receiver option behind projected top duo Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan. Ideally, he returns to his 2016 levels of play as the number three behind them.