The New York Jets selected Denzel Mims with the No. 59 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Here’s what Stephen White had to say about Mims ahead of the draft.
Denzel Mims is the very epitome of a “big play” receiver. And I don’t just mean a guy who can catch a deep ball or make defenders miss once the ball is in his hands. For me, a true big-play wide receiver is a dude who also shows up in crunch time. It’s cool to catch a bomb in the fourth quarter, but who is going to make a play when you need one late in the game?
Mims, that’s who.
But before I get to his timely heroics, let me just talk about how impressive Mims’ tape was from his time at Baylor.
To me, Mims already looks like a Mini Megatron. He can run by you, jump over you, and run through you if need be. He is also the first receiver I’ve broken down this year who actually looks dominant as a blocker. He brings an attitude to blocking the same way he does when he is fighting for the football in the air, and most teams would love to have a tempo setter like their in receiver room.
And that’s just scratching the surface.
What Mims does well: Jump up and get the ball
First of all, the guy is 6’3 and 207 pounds, with body control like a ballerina. They haven’t come up with combine drill yet that can measure the level of athleticism Mims displayed while jumping up to make catches. Yeah, the 38.5-inch vertical gives you somewhat of an idea of how high he can jump from a standstill. Now imagine getting that high in the air with a running start, then pirouetting in mid-air to make the catch, while still managing to get both feet down and in bounds on the sideline.
Yeah, two feet.
I don’t know if he was showing off since it probably would’ve been easier for him to just get one toe down, which is all that is required in college football, but it was damn sure amazing. And those kinds of catches almost came off as routine for Mims in the four games of his I watched.
Some of the back-shoulder fade catches in particular looked damn near unfair. Mims was “sonning” these dudes like he was that one guy in Little League who always had to show his birth certificate. It didn’t really even matter who the defensive backs were, or how they were trying to play him either. Off, press, bail — none of that mattered if Mims was facing man-to man-coverage. The only determining factor seemed to be whether his quarterback delivered a ball that was at least in the vicinity.
One thing I noticed about Mims is he goes after every jump ball like he’s supposed to catch it. Hell, sometimes the ball was so off target that most receivers wouldn’t have even stuck their hands up at it, but he would fight for every reception, and he came up with more than his fair share.
One of his most impressive catches didn’t even count because it was so off target. Even though he ended up several yards out of bounds when he came down, Mims still went up and snatched the ball out of the air like it was nothing.
What Mims does well: He plays physical
As much as his ability to jump helped him go up and make some plays “above the rim” so to speak, Mims’ ability to create separation with subtle pushoffs were also quite remarkable. He was so quick with it that it wasn’t even noticeable unless you were really paying attention, but you can clearly see him stiff-arming defenders around the hip area a second before the quarterback delivered the football. Then all of a sudden Mims would go from being even with the defensive back, to having 3-4 yards of separation.
He did have one long touchdown overturned because of an offensive pass interference call once in those four games, but even then it was more about the defensive back being overly dramatic and falling down. Mims looked like an NFL vet at times nudging the DB just enough so they couldn’t catch up to him.
Mims actually reminds me of Mike Evans in that respect, though Evans was, and still is at times, a lot more obvious than Mims was on tape. I don’t think Mims will end up getting a ton of OPI penalties like Evans has since coming to the league (some of those calls against Evans were also hot garbage).
In fact, I think the physicality of his route running is a major selling point for Mims. Even when you think you have him covered well, you don’t.
His route running in general was pretty good. Not quite as crisp as Jerry Jeudy, but Mims looked plenty fluid getting in and out of his breaks. I didn’t think Baylor used him in as many of the ways as they could have, but I will get to that in a minute.
What Mims does well: He shows up when it matters most
His 40-yard time at the combine was what really cemented just how strong of a prospect Mims is, in my mind. I didn’t necessarily question Mims’ speed, but he was so good at creating separation in other ways, it never really occurred to me that he might be 4.38 fast.
The dude has a serious set of wheels. Just knowing he can blow by a lot of defenders with his speed, combined with all of his other attributes, and you have a receiver who is going to force defenses to roll coverage his way a lot. To be honest, I’m not even sure double coverage deep will always be effective on him, either.
But let me mention again the timeliness of some of the big plays Mims made. He basically put the team on his back in overtime against Texas Tech. With one hell of an effort, he got the Red Raiders to the 1-yard line before they scored a touchdown to tie a game they would eventually go on to win.
Against Oklahoma in the regular season, Mims suffered a lower leg injury that had him limping. He still found a way to come back in the game and make plays, including gutting out a 21-yard gain after a 10-yard stop. I just wanted to inject it into my veins.
That’s the kind of stuff you really want to see from any prospect; how do they perform when the pressure is on and their team needs someone to step up and make a play? Do they shrink from the spotlight, or shine in it? Mims was straight up sparking in those situations in the games I watched.
Where Mims can improve: Ball security
To be sure, there are also some things Mims can work on, too.
Ball security is something I’d watch with him. He had one concentration drop in the games I watched, and to make matters worse, it would have been a touchdown. He also fumbled a couple of times, and even though Baylor retained possession after both plays, I never like seeing guys get ripped like that.
There were also a few plays where he didn’t come down with contested catches and I wouldn’t call it a “drop” per se, but I would expect a top-tier receiver like, say, Julio Jones to make those catches more often than not.
It might help if Mims worked on strengthening his hands. After watching some of the balls he was able to haul in away from his body, it’s impossible for me to say he has “bad” hands, but that doesn’t mean he can’t improve in that area. It could be the difference between being thought of as a good receiver or as great one.
Of course, the important thing for a lot of general managers will be that the potential for greatness is already there. It doesn’t guarantee anything, but if you trust your coaching staff, then you have to believe they will help Mims pull that greatness out of himself eventually. And if this kid really blossoms on the next level, he really might end up being the next Julio.
Mims’ NFL future: A star WR
I know I was talking up Henry Ruggs III not too long ago, and I stand by everything in that column. But I have a hard time seeing a way that he would be higher than Mims on my board this spring.
Maybe the only advantage Ruggs has is he was used in more ways in Alabama’s offense than Mims was used in Baylor’s. I didn’t get to see Mims line up in the slot much, or running any end-arounds, or catching any shallow crossers. But after watching Mims move with the ball in his hands, break tackles, and make defenders miss, I feel confident he could do all those things well, too.
You know what Mims also didn’t have in college? A quarterback like Tua Tagovailoa throwing him the football. I’m not going to say Baylor’s quarterback was trash, but he did miss Mims a couple of times on would-be big plays. There is no guarantee Mims will get drafted to a team an outstanding quarterback, but if he does, I would expect him to ball out from day one.
The first receiver off the board is probably going to come down to what “kind” a team is looking for early in this draft. I can understand the argument for the smaller, probably quicker Ruggs, but I’m generally partial to the bigger, more physical receivers, especially if they are also fast. Speed kills, true enough, but when both guys are pretty fast, give me the one who can also create separation with his physicality.
Before I watched Mims’ tape, I was sure I would tap Ruggs as the first receiver taken in this draft. Now, I’m just as sure that I’d take Mims instead. If I watch a guy next week who blows both of them away, I will adjust again. What I can say for sure right now is that the folks who said this would be a good draft for teams that need receivers were not lying.
History tells us that some of these receivers probably won’t pan out, but there aren’t any obvious busts out of the four guys I’ve broken down so far. I can’t wait to see what they all do once they get to the league.
Be sure to check out my other scouting reports on Chase Young, Jerry Jeudy, Derrick Brown, Jedrick Wills Jr., A.J. Epenesa, CeeDee Lamb, Javon Kinlaw, Mekhi Becton, Terrell Lewis, Henry Ruggs III, Neville Gallimore, Tristan Wirfs, and K’Lavon Chaisson.
For the purposes of this breakdown, I watched Mims play against Kansas State, Texas Tech, Oklahoma, and Texas.