Wednesday night, news broke that the Detroit Lions have agreed to trade for Jets receiver Denzel Mims. Any time a team adds a player who was drafted in the second round just four years ago, it’s bound to get some fans excited. However, Mims never came close to living up to his potential with the Jets, and it only cost the Lions a swap of late-round picks to acquire him.
Obviously, expectations should be tempered.
However, I wanted a more in-depth look into what exactly went wrong. How did a highly-productive college receiver with elite athletic traits fail to reach expectations so suddenly?
So I chatted briefly with Jets writer John B., one of our friends at Gang Green Nation to give us the lowdown on Mims’ first three season in the NFL.
Here’s our conversation:
1) After a somewhat promising second half to his rookie season, what went wrong with the rest of Mims’ Jets career? What was his game lacking?
“He just didn’t develop at all. I think you always grade rookies on a curve. For a project receiver, 23 catches for 357 yards in nine games as a rookie isn’t terrible. It isn’t the type of thing that makes you a lock to be a good player going forward, though. A player needs to keep developing.
“Mims came from a college offense with a pretty limited route tree. He didn’t improve as a route runner much if at all. He also had frequent concentration lapses. When he has been on the field the last two seasons, he’s had high drop and penalty rates.
“I think Mims is the latest in the long line of receivers who got drafted on physical attributes who struggles to execute the fundamentals of the position. It’s easy to talk yourself into a guy like this. (Heck, I certainly did.) There’s just way more to being a wide receiver than being big and fast. And in Mims’ case I even question the fast part. He recorded a 4.38 in the 40-yard dash. You hear all the time about guys who play faster than they were timed. Mims plays slower than he was timed. I don’t think he’s fast at all for a wide receiver.
“I know some people will point to the Jets quarterback situation to explain his lack of production. Look, it’s no secret the Jets have had terrible quarterback play for a long time. But with the exact same quarterbacks, Garrett Wilson just posted an 1,100-yard season and won Offensive Rookie of the Year. Even Elijah Moore, another very disappointing second-round receiver pick, more than doubled Mims’ production.
“There’s a segment of the Jets fanbase that swears Mims was held back by a coaching staff that hated him, but he did get opportunities to play because of injuries in the last two years and did nothing with them. In three years he doesn’t even have a single touchdown catch. It’s tough to say that is somebody else’s fault.”
2) What’s the story behind his trade request last year? Bad culture fit with Saleh’s new regime?
“He wanted to start, and that wasn’t going to happen on the Jets. Based on the lack of trade interest a year ago, it doesn’t seem like any other team viewed him as a starter either.”
3) Any concerns about his character?
“At least from what we know it sounds like he was a pretty hard worker and a pretty solid locker room guy. He even volunteered to play special teams a few years back when it seemed like his roster spot might be in jeopardy in training camp.”
4) Were there any other signs of promise? What strengths showed up in his 3 years?
“It’s easy to talk yourself into Mims. When he makes a play, you notice it. Like 2-3 times a year he’ll do something that’s really impressive. The two things he’s shown an occasional ability to do are use his size to win balls in the air and run tough after the catch. Every so often you’re left saying, ‘Wow!’ by a ball he wins or a tackle he breaks. The problem is the lack of fundamentals prevent him from doing any of these things with consistency.”
5) Do you believe a change in scenery could actually help him unlock starter potential?
“I’m just not sure how much starter potential there is. A year ago I looked at this and found no recent example of an early pick who was so unproductive at the start of his career and eventually blossomed into a quality starter. There were a handful who turned into solid depth players at receiver, and I think that’s the hope for Mims at this point.
“He’s tended to look great in the second half of preseason games where he can just physically overmatch backups and practice squad level players. That tells me he’s worth a roster spot to somebody in this league. I think he’ll fit best in a situation where he can run a limited route tree from the X spot and just use his size and strength as often as possible. I’m not sure you’ll get the consistency you need from a starter, but he might be able to get you through a game or two as a fill in guy.”