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Rookie seasons that New York Jets WR Denzel Mims could mirror

D.K. Metcalf and Denzel Mims
Jet X Graphic, Getty Images

What would the ideal rookie season for New York Jets wide receiver Denzel Mims look like?

Immediately after Roger Goodell announced the 59th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft on the night of April 24, you could feel the ground shake a little bit throughout the Tri-State Area. It had nothing to do with the shifting of plates beneath the Earth’s surface. Not at all. Rather, that was just the impact of Jets fans everywhere rejoicing that their team had snatched a tantalizing weapon for Sam Darnold in Denzel Mims.

With arguably the thinnest group of outside wide receivers in the NFL, the Jets are going to be counting on Mims to produce right away. Let’s take a look at a few rookie seasons from the past that model what an ideal 2020 campaign could look like for Mims.

The many steals of 2019

This past season saw a multitude of young wide receivers who were overlooked on draft weekend establish themselves as future stars. Six different rookies at the position averaged over 50 receiving yards per game, and none of them were drafted in the first round. Here are a few who produced at a level that would represent a phenomenal start for Mims.

High-efficiency No. 2 option on the outside – D.K. Metcalf, Seattle Seahawks (Round 2, Pick 64)

  • School: Mississippi
  • Height/weight/forty (percentiles): 6’3⅜”/228/4.33 (86/95/95)
  • Final college season production: 3.7 receptions, 81.3 yards, 0.7 touchdowns (7 games)

Similar to Mims, Metcalf slid down the draft board a bit further than expected and was taken in the later portion of the second round. Despite their obvious talent, each player seems to have dropped due to a particular reason that teams may have gotten themselves too hung up on. Metcalf’s red flags were injury issues and the unsightly times he posted in three-cone (7.38 seconds, 2nd percentile) and 20-yard shuttle (4.50 seconds, 4th percentile) drills at the Combine. Mims’ issue could have been his drop totals, perceived lack of route-running nuance, a combination of both, or something we do not know about.

We will see if the 12 teams who took another wide receiver over Mims turn out to be correct, but Metcalf certainly prompted some second thoughts from the teams that passed on him.

  • 16 of 16 regular season games
  • 900 receiving yards (3rd-most among rookie WR)
  • 7 receiving touchdowns (3rd-most)
  • 58 receptions (2nd-most)
  • 11 receptions on 14 targets for 219 yards and a touchdown over 2 playoff games

Metcalf was able to produce an efficient 9.0 yards per target (65th percentile among wide receivers with 80+ targets) in a featured role for the Seahawks. He saw 100 targets in his direction, fewer than only Tyler Lockett (110), 66 more than any other wide receiver, and 41 more than any other player.

Mims may not rank second on the Jets in targets with Le’Veon Bell, Jamison Crowder, and Chris Herndon around, but he will likely battle with Breshad Perriman for the lead in targets among outside wide receivers. The Jets would obviously be thrilled if Mims could be have a high-volume rookie season as efficient as Metcalf’s.

Big-play threat – Darius Slayton, New York Giants (Round 5, Pick 171)

  • School: Auburn
  • Height/weight/forty (percentiles): 6’1″/190/4.39 (47/22/87)
  • Final college season production: 3.2 receptions, 60.9 yards, 0.5 touchdowns (11 games)

Slayton made his debut in Week 3 and immediately became a splash play-maker for the Giants. He finished the season ranked first on the team in total receiving yards (740), first in receiving touchdowns (8), and fourth in receiving yards per game (52.9) in addition to leading qualifiers with 8.8 yards per target. Six of Slayton’s eight touchdowns were from 20-plus yards out.

Perhaps Mims will take on this sort of role to start out, focusing on using his size and speed to win on downfield routes while he develops his short game en route to becoming a more well-rounded No. 1 threat in 2021.

No. 1 option on the entire offense – Terry McLaurin, Washington Redskins (Round 3, Pick 76)

  • School: Ohio St.
  • Height/weight/forty (percentiles): 6’0⅛”/208/4.35 (34/63/92)
  • Final college season production: 2.9 receptions, 58.4 yards, 0.9 touchdowns (12 games)

McLaurin led the Redskins with 125 receiving in the season-opener and would be the team’s most featured target by a wide margin throughout the season. He led Washington with 93 targets, 35 more than any other player, and made the most of them. The former Buckeye caught 58 of 93 targets for 919 yards (second-most among rookie wide receivers) and seven touchdowns. McLaurin’s average of 9.9 yards per target ranked ninth out of the 52 wide receivers with at least 80 targets.

It is highly unlikely that Mims leads the Jets in targets by as wide of a margin as McLaurin led the Redskins last season, simply due to the number of targets he has to compete with.

However, if Mims beats defenders frequently enough to the point where he ranks first in targets on a highly balanced passing attack, the Jets offense will probably have enjoyed a great season. With above average options in the slot, running back, and tight end, the pieces are in place for Adam Gase to efficiently spread the ball around to a lot of different weapons if Mims or another outside wide receiver can break out and attract attention on the outside.

Historical comparisons

Slow start, rapid ascension – Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers (2014, Round 2, Pick 53)

  • School: Fresno St.
  • Height/weight/forty (percentiles): 6’1″/212/4.56 (47/74/29)
  • Final college season production: 10.1 receptions, 132.2 yards, 1.8 touchdowns (13 games)

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