The Detroit Lions have selected tight end James Mitchell with the 177th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. Day 3 of the draft started off slow, with the Lions having to wait 80 picks following their selection of safety Kerby Joseph. Was it worth the wait?
My grade: B+
The Lions had an underrated need at tight end. T.J. Hockenson is well-entrenched as the starter, but the backup spot is far from set. Prior to the draft, Detroit had five other tight ends on the roster, none of whom were viewed as sure-fire backups.
Brock Wright was the de facto TE2 last season following the retirement of Josh Hill and release of Darren Fells. He had 117 yards and two touchdowns, but his blocking left much to be desired. The remaining tight ends of Garrett Griffin, Jared Pinkney, Matt Sokol, and Shane Zylstra have a combined 68 career receiving yards. While blocking is valuable, the Lions needed a tight end that can also catch.
Enter James Mitchell.
At 6-foot-4 and 249 pounds, Mitchell is somewhat undersized for a tight end, but it is far from a hindrance. Mitchell is a capable receiver, totaling 838 receiving yards in 22 career games. With Mitchell, the Lions get a fascinating chess piece for their offense, one that can play in-line, in the slot, out wide, or as an H-back. He projects well as a compliment for Hockenson and can block decently to boot.
The biggest knock for Mitchell is something also affecting their first-round pick Jameson Williams: an ACL injury. Mitchell had a productive 2020 season with 435 receiving yards. However, his 2021 campaign was derailed early when he tore his ACL. Thankfully, being so far removed from that injury means he might be ready for training camp:
New Lions TE James Mitchell says he expects to be fully clear by June from his torn ACL from September.— Pride of Detroit (@PrideOfDetroit) April 30, 2022
You can never guarantee if a player returns to form, however, so there is a risk with this selection. If he recovers to full strength, the Lions could have a much-needed backup behind Hockenson. Mitchell was arguably the top tight end still on the board, so the value is right. For a late fifth-round pick, he’s a risk worth taking.
Grade the selection of James Mitchell
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