Denzel Mims’ Freaky Moments Make Him a Perfect Late First Round Pick
Note: Since I no longer have access to the necessary college film to chart prospects and their Reception Perception samples, I’ll be taking RP data from the NFL level and using it to frame what we can expect from these incoming rookies and their best role as pro receivers. You can get access to Reception Perception data on the Top 50 NFL receivers in the 2020 Ultimate Draft Kit.
Denzel Mims comes to the NFL after a productive career at Baylor. Unlike many in this class, Mims is a senior. He cleared 1,000 yards in two of his final three seasons and hauled in 28 touchdowns.
The big-play receiver primarily worked as an outside receiver, lining up in the slot on just 12 percent of his snaps in 2018 and 2019. His average depth of target went up over the course of his starting career from 12.8 in 2017, to 13.9 in 2018 to 14.1 in 2019. There is an extreme level of comfort as a vertical threat in Mims’ game.
After the conclusion of his strong college career, Mims went on to crush the pre-draft process. He drew rave reviews for his performance in Senior Bowl practices. It was clear he was one of the best offensive players in attendance. Next, he shredded the combine. Mims weighed in a 207 pounds while standing 6-foot-3. And then went on to run a 4.38-second 40-yard dash time before shining in the vertical and broad jump.
Mims’ draft journey reminds me so much of Chris Godwin’s from 2017. Just like Godwin, Mims was productive in college before completely crushing each step of the draft process. Most importantly, just like Godwin, Mims’ film is awesome.
To start things off: Mims probably has the best bend and hip sink in the class. No one can touch Jeudy’s overall route mastery and Justin Jefferson’s precise technique. But in terms of just natural flexion and ability to change directions, Mims is unreal.
There were several out routes on his film where he wasn’t truly open for the duration of the pattern but when he decided to break outside, there was an enormous amount of space between him and the coverage player. Mims does a good job of making these out routes look like a standard go, which makes his change of direction when he does break to the sideline even more devastating. You can make an argument this is his best route right now.
Of course, what Mims is best at doing right now is getting deep. He earns and sustains arm-length separation on go routes routinely. The term “stacking” the defensive back on vertical routes is thrown around any number of times in the draft season. Mims is one of the best at it over the last few classes. It actually applies here and isn’t just an appealing buzzword. This helps him always be in prime position when having to win a ball in traffic. The bend and intoxicating athletic ability he shows in routes are impossible to miss when he’s working to win a contested catch. It helps that he’s an ultra physical player, giving him a clear advantage when it’s time to win a pass outside his frame.
Mims’ next quarterback will absolutely love his catch radius. You can believe that.
Much of route running starts at the beginning of the play and this is an area Mims is making a ton of progress. He does a good job setting defenders up at the line, especially when a vertical route is coming. His physical, deliberate steps all connect well with the entirety of his game. He also shows well against press coverage when running curl routes. With strong, quick foot fire at the peak of the pattern, he often has a timing advantage over cornerbacks.
While his overall flexibility and physical nature show him eviscerating man coverage at the college level, it’s hard to call Mims’ route running refined at this point. There are more than enough subtleties to build on and that’s why he’s getting positive marks here. However, he doesn’t have experience running the full route tree or executing every move you want to see. We should expect his route portfolio to be limited in the pros, at least to start. We also know by now, that’s far from a problem.
When just watching Denzel Mims, I kept thinking of Broncos receiver Courtland Sutton. A hulking athlete, Sutton crushed it in his second season in Denver despite shaky quarterback play. There are plenty of routes, assignments and alignments that Sutton and Mims can both excel with on their plate. Although, Mims looks a bit more seasoned and ready to grow as a route runner in Year 1 than Sutton did back in his draft class.
Another player that came to mind was a former Baylor receiver. Josh Gordon. When Mims hits the NFL field, his primary route tree will consist of curls, slants, outs and vertical patterns. Much of Gordon’s career was spent just hammering teams with those same routes.
Make no mistake, Mims is this kind of special athlete. It’s a lot to compare anyone to Gordon but I was struck with just how many truly freaky moments Mims offered up while watching.
In Gordon’s 2017 season with the Browns, after an extended absence from the NFL, Cleveland handed Gordon a simplified route tree with over 60 percent of his patterns logging as a nine, post or slant in Reception Perception. That is a perfect way to make it work early for Denzel Mims.
If a team looks at everything Denzel Mims brings to the table and decides to pull the trigger late in Round 1, I won’t bat an eye. Simply look at some of the names of receivers mentioned in the piece. Chris Godwin. Courtland Sutton. Josh Gordon. This is the type of physical specimen we’re talking about here.
Each of those players showed they could play in early glimpses of their NFL careers, while still honing their craft. I bet we see the same from Mims. Then, when each of those three was called upon to step into a larger role and become a leading actor, they flourished. Again, I’m willing to wager we see the same from Mims.
Offenses that should be most willing to bring Mims on board are ones with an established top outside receiver in place that can afford to let him take some time to develop. Green Bay looks like the perfect spot. Hand him a simplified rookie year assignment and let him crush that. Maybe someday he grows into a 1b with Adams. That is within his range of outcomes.
Baltimore also could be gorgeous, the same as San Francisco. Both of their 2019 rookies are excellent movable chess pieces with room in their game to grow. Bringing a player like Mims who can win deep while developing into a true X-receiver would take these passing games to another level.