The 2022 NFL Draft looks to be a deep one along the offensive line. Not only does it have plenty of top prospects getting all the draft buzz, but there is solid depth at every position. That’s great for teams, but it can also make it so talented prospects can slip through the national cracks.
Max Mitchell from Louisiana-Lafayette might be one such prospect, who’s national profile could rise over the process as the media catches up to the NFL. He has experience starting, and playing well on both ends of the offensive line. He’s also one of the more athletic blockers in this draft class, with quickness and easy movement skills.
Mitchell won’t be for everyone, and the various teams will need to make sure his skill set fits their scheme when grading him. That said, Mitchell could be one of the big sleepers in the draft for a team that wants an athletic pass protector who can push for a starting job at left or right tackle.
We don’t yet know what kind of linemen the New York Giants are looking for, so could Mitchell be higher on their board than we suspect?
Prospect: Max Mitchell (74)
Games Watched: vs. Coastal Carolina (2020), vs. Texas (2021), vs. Appalachian State (2021), vs. Appalachian State (2021 Sun Belt Championship Game)
Games Played (starts): 37
Best: Athleticism, experience, versatility, pass protection, zone blocking, play demeanor
Worst: Scheme diversity, play strength, hand placement
Projection: A starting left or right tackle in a zone blocking scheme
(Mitchell is the right tackle, number 74)
Louisiana-Lafayette senior Max Mitchell is an experienced, versatile, tough, and athletic offensive tackle prospect.
Mitchell has started 37 games in the last three years, playing in an additional 14 as a freshman, and has considerable experience at both left and right tackle positions. He’s started numerous games at both positions, even playing both during the same game when the situation dictates.
Mitchell is an athletic tackle prospect with a flexible and fluid lower body, strong lateral movement skills, and the speed to be used as a pulling lineman or in space on screen plays. He is a natural knee bender, able to sit easily into his stance and pass sets, keeping his hips and pads low. Likewise, he shows good ankle flexibility to maintain a wide base and good contact with the ground when kick-sliding.
Mitchell is a smart and dependable pass protector on both the left and right sides, with plenty of athleticism to mirror speed off the edge. He has no problems hitting his landmarks and rarely panics when facing fast pass rushers, and shows the wherewithal to usher them around the pocket if he is initially beaten. Mitchell also shows quick processing to pick up blitzes or late pressure from stunts or twists. He works very well with his linemates to pass off looping defenders and is able to use his hands independently to maintain blocks while slowing down blitzers.
Mitchell is a tough and absolutely tenacious blocker who strains to maintain his blocks through the echo of the whistle and will drive defenders 10 yards downfield if he is able.
He also executes zone blocking schemes very well. Mitchell uses his athleticism well to stress defenders laterally and shows a good understanding of angles to maximize running lanes when he’s on the play-side. He also does a good job of working off of double-teams and up to the second level.
While Mitchell is a very good zone blocker, he suffers in down-hill man-gap schemes. He has a tendency to lunge at defenders when playing downhill, making it too easy for them to defeat, or outright avoid, his blocks. Mitchell also lacks great play strength, which also limits him on man-gap blocks. He is capable of absorbing power when he plays with good leverage, but he isn’t a people-mover when playing downhill, and can struggle against power rushers when he doesn’t maintain good leverage.
Mitchell also needs to work on being more consistent with his hand placement. He needs to be more aggressive with his punch, and too often his hands start low and wide. That puts him at risk of giving up first contact and his chest plate to the defender. Likewise, he can also fail to play up to his true length and make it more difficult for him to control defenders without resorting to a second effort.
Overall Grade: 7.4
How Max Mitchell projects will likely depend on the team that selects him.
He has the upside to win a starting job at left or right tackle for a team that values athleticism and primarily runs a zone blocking scheme. However, he would likely be viewed as more of a back-up swing tackle by teams that prefer a more power-based approach. Teams that lean more toward man-gap blocking schemes would likely want Mitchell to be their sixth lineman as they attempt to build up his play strength over his first year or two.
Whether or not he could get much bigger or stronger without compromising his athleticism and movement skills remains to be seen.
Regardless, an athletic blocking scheme would maximize Mitchell’s skills and give him the best chance for success. Teams could also look at Mitchell as a potential convert to guard, or even center, based on his relative lack of length compared to the NFL’s archetypical offensive tackle.
His athleticism opens up a number of options in a modern blocking scheme, and Mitchell could easily be used as a pulling tackle, out in space on screen plays, or even as a fullback or tackle-eligible. Likewise, he does a very good job of selling his run blocking to make play-action passes that much more effective.
Teams will likely be attracted to his versatility, experience, and competitive toughness. Mitchell’s experience at both tackle positions will likely increase his value and allow him to compete for a starting job at either position. And while he isn’t a “mauler”, Mitchell’s competitiveness is easy to see on tape. It’s common to see him blocking through the whistle, running downfield to push running backs for extra yards, or trying to help out on long plays with a third or fourth block.
Mitchell’s game isn’t without warts, and he would be much more effective with some work on his hands. In particular, a more violent and accurate punch would really help him take his blocking to the next level.