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Instant analysis of the Detroit Lions’ selection of TE James Mitchell

A closer look at the Detroit Lions’ newest tight end, James Mitchell.

North Carolina v Virginia Tech Photo by Michael Shroyer/Getty Images

The Detroit Lions addressed one of their biggest remaining needs with their first pick on Day 3 by selecting Virginia Tech tight end James Mitchell.

Going into 2021, Mitchell was considered a rising star with a promising future in the NFL. In 2019, he caught 21 catches for 461 yards (17.2 average!) and two touchdowns. He followed it up with another 26 catches the following year for another 435 yards and four touchdowns.

Unfortunately for Mitchell, he suffered a torn ACL just two weeks into the 2021 season. Mitchell told the Detroit media that he expects to be ready by June at the latest, so he shouldn’t miss any time in training camp.

Although he shined as an F-tight end (receiver, sometimes in the slot), he is a willing blocker, too. He actually spent around 60 percent of his snaps in-line tight end at Virginia Tech. At 6-foot-3, 255 pounds, he has the physical presence to be a blocking tight end, but he’ll have to develop his technique (51.7 PFF run blocking grade in 2020, 66.6 pass blocking grade).

With the addition of Garrett Griffin in free agency this offseason, Mitchell will have to compete for a role on offense in his rookie season, along with the likes of Brock Wright. However, Mitchell has moderate experience on special teams and could win a role there for 2022.

At best, the Lions got a bit of a steal with a high-ceiling offensive downfield weapon who fell due to injury. He’s also another character fit as a team captain last year. At worst, Mitchell will compete for a depth role and should be able to contribute on special teams, but will need serious development to become a more balanced tight end.

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After winning their first NFC North title in 30 years, the Lions have unfinished business this offseason. Stay updated with Jeremy Reisman through Pride of Detroit Direct, our newsletter offering up exclusive analysis. Sign up with NFCNORTH30 to get 30% off after your free trial.