Time is running out for Denzel Mims
However, the class come under fire throughout its second season. Several picks in the middle rounds look like misses while the first three picks have been hampered by injury and drama.
Left tackle Mekhi Becton was the crown jewel of the class, dominating top defenders in his rookie year. Coming into his second season, he had sky-high expectations. A poll of NFL executives even rated Becton as the sixth-best tackle in the league.
However, a Week 1 injury has kept Becton out for the majority of the season, leading many fans to forget about his talent while some critics obsess over Becton’s weight.
The Jets’ third pick, safety Ashtyn Davis, has struggled with injuries and when healthy has made several plays where he took a poor angle or just seemed lost in coverage.
However, no other player has been more disappointing or involved with more drama than wide receiver Denzel Mims.
When head coach Robert Saleh spoke to reporters in the summer, he said he was looking forward to facing adversity and seeing how the players responded. Mims has faced plenty of adversity over the past four years.
In college, Mims played through a broken hand as a junior which hurt his draft stock as it led to a high drop rate.
Following an impressive senior year and a dominant performance at the Combine, many expected Mims to be a late first-round pick. Instead, he slid to the Jets at 59th overall, making him the 13th wide receiver selected.
Then, just before the start of his rookie year, Mims suffered a hamstring injury that kept him out until Week 9.
After a good start to his rookie season, Mims missed the Jets’ game against the Seahawks in Week 14 due to personal reasons and has not been the same player since that point.
Over his first six career games, Mims had 19 catches for 324 yards with 102 yards after the catch and four broken tackles. After returning the next week following the Seattle game, Mims compiled only four catches for 33 yards over three games to close the 2020 season.
Mims’s struggles near the end of his rookie year have carried over into 2021. In eight games, he has seven catches for 133 yards with no touchdowns and just one broken tackle. Most concerningly, Mims has a ghastly 20.0% drop rate (league average for wide receivers is typically around 7%), dropping two balls over his very small sample of opportunities.
The lack of production follows an offseason that was littered with controversy.
Heading into his second season, enthusiasm for Mims quickly faded as he struggled to work his way up the depth chart throughout OTAs, minicamp, and training camp. Months after the fact, it was revealed that Mims got food poisoning from salmon and lost 20 pounds, leading to his absence in early offseason activities throughout the spring.
During the Jets’ season opener against Carolina, Mims played a mere three snaps but hauled in a huge 46-yard pass on third down in a crucial fourth-quarter drive (although he was left uncovered).
After that, Mims was a healthy scratch for the next two games.
Mims returned to action in Week 4 but didn’t play more than 35% of the snaps in a game until Corey Davis was injured in Week 8. He got two starts in place of Davis but tallied only three catches for 50 yards over that span.
Next, Mims ended up missing three games due to COVID-19 before returning against the Eagles in Week 13. With Cole out and Davis departing in the third quarter, Mims played 21 snaps (36%), but he still only had one catch for four yards and registered the second-lowest overall PFF grade of all offensive players on the team at 50.7 (ahead of only rookie tight end Kenny Yeboah).
It’s safe to say it’s been a tumultuous and disappointing two years for Denzel Mims.
Joe Douglas invested a second-round pick in Mims. While Mims showed starter potential over his first six games, that means nothing in the NFL. Success must be maintained – flashes aren’t good enough.
The front office showed faith in Mims by refusing to trade him at the deadline despite interest from other teams. Now, it’s up to the coaching staff to develop him into a long-term piece.
If Mims cannot show signs of becoming just that prior to the end of the 2021 season, then the Jets will likely look into replacing him this offseason.
That’s why it’s paramount for the coaching staff to get him involved and put him in positions to succeed. New York needs to see what he can do.
Despite his struggles, there are reasons to believe Mims can turn it around.
Why Mims can improve
It has been over a year since the last time Mims cracked 40 yards (11/29 Week 12 vs Dolphins), so I understand why many fans have given up on him.
However, it’s too early to write off a player with Mims’s physical tools who had such an inspiring start to his career.
Mims is one of only seven wide receivers in league history to have at least 40+ receiving yards in their first six games. The other players are Andre Johnson, Amari Cooper, Stefon Diggs, Michael Thomas, Ceedee Lamb, and now Ja’Marr Chase. That’s not a bad group to be a part of, especially considering he did it while playing for one of the league’s worst offenses.
— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) November 1, 2020
In his second year, Mims has struggled with drops, but over a much larger sample size in his rookie year, he only had one drop against 23 receptions (4.1% rate).
Unfortunately, it will be tough for fans to forget his brutal touchdown drop against the Bengals in Week 8 of this year.
Mims is at his best with the ball in his hands, averaging 4.5 yards after the catch per reception in his career. Comparatively, that would currently rank 46th out of 107 qualified wide receivers this year.
What gives me the most hope are his measurables. Mims has an elite combination of speed and size that compares well with some of the best wide receivers in the NFL. Compared to every Pro Bowl wide receiver since 2000, only 12 have a better Relative Athletic Score (RAS) than Mims.
This is how Mims compares to Julio Jones, one of the best athletes in the NFL.
|Metric||Denzel Mims||Julio Jones|
|Arm Length (in.)||33.8||33.75|
|Hand Size (in.)||9.38||9.75|
|40 Yard Dash (s)||4.38||4.34|
|Bench Press (reps)||16||17|
|Vertical Leap (in.)||38.5||38.5|
|Broad Jump (in.)||131||135|
|20 Yard Shuttle (s)||4.43||4.25|
|Three Cone (s)||6.66||6.66|
Mims is an elite athlete that compares to one of the best wide receivers of all time.
While physical traits alone don’t result in excellence, being 6-foot-3 and having some of the fastest drill times in the NFL certainly helps.
Since 2017, six wide receivers over six feet tall ran a sub-4.4 in the 40 and were picked in the first two rounds: Mims, D.K. Metcalf, D.J. Chark, Ja’Marr Chase, Rashod Bateman, and Parris Campbell. That is a mostly successful group.
While nobody is asking Mims to be at the level of players like Metcalf and Chase, he is capable of playing much better than he has.
How Mims can improve
To reach his full potential, there are several skills Mims needs to improve.
Most importantly, Mims needs to improve as a route runner. Thankfully, his great short-area quickness gives me faith he can develop here, as offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur emphasized in interviews at the start of the year.
Another area Mims needs to improve is in making contested catches. He was dominant in this aspect in college, using his size and body control, but has struggled in the NFL. According to PFF’s tracking, Mims has grabbed only four of 14 contested passes as a Jet (28.6%).
More than anything though, Mims needs to stop dropping passes.
There were concerns about Mims’s hands coming out of college as he had an 11.4% career drop rate dragged down by a rough junior year. In his senior year, Mims cut it down to 4.3%, even better than Jerry Jeudy or CeeDee Lamb. He will need a similar turnaround now if he wants to be trusted by Zach Wilson.
At this point, the best-case career path I can think of for Mims is that of former Eagles first-round pick Nelson Agholor.
Agholor was an athletic player taken early in the draft who disappointed in his first two years before developing into a respectable starter in his third season. Like Mims, Agholor struggled with drops early on and was at his best with the ball in his hands.
Hopefully, Mims can follow suit with a similar year-three breakout. Agholor went on to average around 50 catches, 700 yards, and six touchdowns per season over his next four years following a brutal two-year start.
The time is now for Denzel Mims
Prior to the season, I was a huge Denzel Mims fan and believed he would break out in year two. Unfortunately, all of the promise he showed in his first six games as a Jet has disappeared, and I’m no longer confident he’ll be on the roster going forward, let alone a starter.
With Corey Davis now out for the season following core muscle surgery, Mims is poised to step into Davis’ shoes and take on a big role over the remainder of the year for the Jets.
Mims has five games to earn a role in New York moving forward. It’s now or never.
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