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Malcolm Mitchell deserves more attention in fantasy

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Leading up to the 2016 NFL Draft, each day NFL Fantasy will profile a prospect who could make a splash in fantasy next season. Today's subject is former Georgia wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell.

Malcolm Mitchell fell out of the national eye at the University of Georgia when he tore his ACL in 2013 after a dynamic start to his college career. The injury took a toll on his production, as he averaged just 8.0 yards per catch in 2014. However, Mitchell bounced back with a strong senior season, and resembled the player the Bulldogs hoped he would be when they brought him to campus back in 2011.

Full 2016 "Prospect a Day" list

Mitchell's NFL.com draft profile

Strengths


     » Smooth acceleration with little trouble changing speeds
     » Shows the flashes of strong, nuanced route-running skills
     » Can go up and high point the ball in traffic
     » Strong separation at the break points in routes

The athleticism that once made Malcolm Mitchell such a desirable product out of high school is still present despite the injury history. Mitchell glides when he runs, and can change gears with the ball in his hands and as a route runner. He backed up his film with a strong combine performance, including a 4.45 40-yard dash and a really strong 129-inch broad jump. At times you see Mitchell flash some polished route running, particularly with the use of deception and fluid ability to drop his hips.

Mitchell also showed up at the combine with 10-1/2-inch hands, good for the 97th percentile among participants since 1999, and it's another attribute that shows up on film. He has strong hands running routes over the middle, even when the defender bears down for a hit. Plenty of times in 2015, Mitchell made the play the offense needed in contested situations. He mixes strong ball-tracking ability and timing to make up for a lack of height and leaping ability.

Weaknesses

2016 NFL DRAFT

Draft coverage:


     » Good against press coverage at the line, but can get bumped around down the field
     » Needs to consistently show strong route-running flashes 
     » Comes with an injury history and will be a 24-year old rookie

Mitchell comes with just average size at just six feet tall and 198 pounds. While he offsets that with physical hand work and technique releasing from the line of scrimmage against press coverage, that lack of size shows up against grabby corners further in routes.

While Mitchell does flash instances of truly great route work for a college prospect, those instances can vary wildly in terms of consistency. When Mitchell is on, he looks like a first- or second-round prospect. Yet, when that technique wanes, he gets covered up too easily. He needs more consistency to earn a regular role in an NFL offense. At least the ability shows up, even if it is in spurts, as Mitchell will already need to beat the negative odds brought on by his age and injury history.

Ideal NFL fantasy fits


     » Carolina Panthers
     » Atlanta Falcons
     » Houston Texans
     » Cincinnati Bengals
     » New York Giants

Two NFC South teams need a receiver like Mitchell, and would keep him close to the area he played college ball. The Carolina Panthers have two behemoths in Kelvin Benjamin and Devin Funchess to pair with Cam Newton for the long-haul, but don't rule out them adding another body. Mitchell brings a different element to the field than either player, and could function as a flanker/slot-type receiver to give Newton a reliable chain-mover. The Falcons need assistance in the passing game, and Mitchell might provide instant competition for a complementary role.

Mitchell looks like the type of player who could ascend early in his career, and three more teams would provide a chance for instant impact. The Texans could get out of Mitchell what they imagined Cecil Shorts would offer them. Houston needs someone to grow along side DeAndre Hopkins. The Bengals lost Marvin Jones in free agency, and Mitchell shares some similar strong points in his game. Someone needs to fill out the No. 2 and No. 3 roles with the Giants, and Mitchell falls along the archetype of receiver who succeed in that west coast offense.

Early fantasy draft projection

Every game, all season

As always with prospects likely headed for the mid to late rounds, projecting Malcolm Mitchell for fantasy value is always a murky endeavor at best. However, without much reason to expect it going into the charting process, Mitchell simply scored too well in Reception Perception to ignore. He had a top five score at defeating man coverage, and was above the class average in several other important metrics.

Mitchell is far from a flawless prospect, even if there is reason for hope here. He needs to consistently play to the high-end technical and route-running potential he flashes. Should he do that, he can earn a complementary role in a passing scheme that suits his skills. His toughness, character and ball skills will endear him to his coaches early on. Don't rule out that he surprises people with a productive career, and perhaps earlier than we expect. With that being said, Mitchell still has to beat the odds as an older player with an injury history. Chances are he doesn't just walk into a beneficial role as a rookie. However, if he lands in a good spot with a strong passing team, Mitchell could contend for being a second-round pick in dynasty rookie drafts. Mitchell has translatable NFL ability, and deserves more note than he currently has in the fantasy community.

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Matt Harmon is an associate fantasy writer/editor for NFL.com, and the creator of #ReceptionPerception, who you can follow on Twitter @MattHarmon_BYB.

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