Baylor wide receiver Denzel Mims was once viewed as an exciting potential candidate to enter the 2018 draft. After a stellar sophomore campaign where he posted a 61/1087/8 stat line, the imposing X receiver (6-3/215) was expected to shine as a junior. However, instead of improving on his sophomore stats, his junior totals were slightly less impressive, though context helps explain the statistical shift.
As a sophomore, Mims was the only receiver of consequence on a bad 1-11 Baylor team. The second-highest receiving total behind Mims’ team-leading 1,087 yards came from Pooh Stricklin, who racked up just 414 yards on the season; that 62% drop off between the first and second place receiving totals on the team showcase just how isolated Mims was as an athletic threat to defenses in 2017.
But in 2018, a much improved 7-6 Bears squad saw now San Francisco 49er Jalen Hurd enter the lineup, evening out the receiving production and leading the team in receptions and yards (69/946/4). By contrast, Mims’ numbers (55/794/8) show that he was a clear 1B to Hurd’s 1A, but by ceding the alpha role to Hurd (a former 5-star recruit and renowned athletic freak), it made sense for Mims to return to Baylor for his senior year and reclaim the lead role.
There’s every reason to expect Mims to shine in 2019 as he angles to work his way up 2020 NFL draft boards. Let’s take a look at some of the skills he’s already put on film in his development thus far.
This first clip is a one-play summary of what makes Mims intriguing as a prospect. It’s a “wow play” that features outstanding body control as he adjusts to the ball in the air, making a difficult catch look smoother and easier than it has any business looking.
Outside X Skill Set
Mims is a classic X receiver who excels on outside routes. This reel showcases those skills on multiple reps over the three games reviewed for this article.
There are certainly some elements that could be tightened up in spots here, particularly a hitch on 3rd and 9 that comes up short of the sticks, leaving the Bears with a seemingly avoidable 4th down, despite Mims’ catch. However, there are multiple other plays where Mims demonstrates strong field awareness and clears the line to gain with his route to keep the chains moving.
The physical stiff-arm on the second play is certainly impressive. The back-shoulder catch is another standout flash moment here. The fourth play in the reel also is a strong showing for Mims as he settles in a soft spot beyond the sticks to convert another first down.
Ability to Work the Middle
By no means is Mims limited with his route tree to playing outside the hash marks. This reel highlights his ability to work effectively in the middle of the field on both slant and dig routes. The final play features some carelessness in terms of ball security, which is noted by the commentator, and that’s an area Mims will hopefully show improvement with as a senior.
This reel shows it all coming together for Mims, as he finds the end zone on both inside and outside routes.
Other Routes (Screen/Shallow)
These are just two plays, but in the small 3-game sample reviewed for this article, it’s promising to see the variance in Mims’ route tree. While these plays aren’t going to put him on SportsCenter, he’s demonstrating a more complete threat spectrum to defenses by converting on a quick screen and a shallow route here.
It doesn’t get much better than this. Oklahoma cornerback Jordan Thomas makes a strong initial play on a contested catch, but Mims sticks with it and keeps a toe down to convert a fantastic reception.
While Mims’ concentration was phenomenal in the highlight above, there are a couple of lapses in concentration shown in other moments.
On the first play here, Mims short-arms his attack on the ball in the air, which keeps him from truly high-pointing it; as a result, he allows the DB to get a hand on the ball at the catch point and break it up. If Mims had attacked the ball with full arm extension to meet the ball at its highest point, the chances of him coming down with the catch would have been dramatically higher.
In the second example, Mims put himself in a position to convert the clear touchdown if he had been willing to drag his left toe and take the fall going out of bounds. Instead, he takes another step to stay on his feet, missing the touchdown despite making the catch.
Mims is an able blocker, though he can certainly improve. It’s tough to say that he appears passionate about blocking, but he’s generally willing to mix it up with defenders. He’ll need to keep a wider base more consistently to finish off blocks more regularly, and he’ll need to avoid efforts like the final one in this reel. As coaches everywhere are wont to say, “If you can’t block, you can’t play.”
Ultimately, Denzel Mims will be a fascinating prospect to keep tabs on throughout the college season. If he is able to post the best stat line and overall performance of his college career, his stock will be making a steady rise as the 2020 draft approaches.
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