Over the next few months, we’ll be breaking down every Jets rookie, including the undrafted free agents. Today we break down Louisiana offensive lineman Max Mitchell, selected by the Jets with the 111th overall pick, in detail.
The 22-year-old Mitchell is listed at 6’6 “and 299 pounds and was a third-team all-American and the Sun Belt Conference’s offensive player of the year in 2021.
Mitchell was only a two-star prospect coming out of high school but headed to Louisiana where he played in every game as a backup tackle in his true freshman season.
He became a starter as a sophomore, starting every game, and then was a second-team all-Sun Belt Conference selection after making 10 more starts in his junior year.
In his senior year, Mitchell was a first-team all-conference pick and won the conference’s offensive player of the year award. He was also named as a third-team all-American.
Having been invited to the Senior Bowl and the scouting combine, Mitchell established himself as a projected mid-round pick and was eventually selected by the Jets early in the fourth round.
Now let’s take a look at what Mitchell brings to the table, divided into categories.
Measurables / Athleticism
Mitchell has adequate length and although the Jets list him at less than 300 pounds, he actually weighed in at 307 at the combine. Some reports suggest keeping weight on might be a challenge for him, though.
His combine workout numbers are a mixed bag with solid numbers for broad jump (106 inches) and the short shuttle (4.65) but poor numbers for the three cone drill and vertical. His 40-yard dash time was slightly below average at 5.32 but he shows quick feet on film.
At his pro day, he ran the 40 again, but only shaved two-hundredths off his time. He also did the bench press, but posted a below average 21 reps.
Mitchell has experience of starting games at both tackle positions and has also seen some rotational action at left guard. During Senior Bowl practices, he was also reportedly working on learning to snap the ball so he might be planning to develop into a possible center option.
As a freshman, he backed up primarily at left tackle, then played the first half of the year on the left and the second half on the right in 2019 with 82 snaps also played at guard. He only started two games on the left in his junior year with the rest at right tackle. He was almost exclusively on the right in 2021.
He has also been used as a jumbo package tight end and even lined up in the slot on a gadget play.
Mitchell’s pass protection numbers were solid in college, especially in his junior year where he only gave up one pressure all season. The caveat to this is that he didn’t always play against a high level of competition and that Louisiana ran an offense where they often got rid of the ball quickly.
A lot of his film is impressive though. He moves his feet well to mirror, uses his hands to control his man and is smart with his approach so he will use a pass rusher’s momentum against them effectively.
When the bull rushed, he would often get driven back initially but then is able to re-anchor and he can “pull the chair” and bury his man if they overbalance.
For his career, he only gave up three sacks. This one came right at the end of a game, so fatigue may have factored into his ability to get into his stance and out in front of the pass rusher.
Mitchell also had a holding penalty that negated a long pass in 2020. This was on a play where he re-anchored against a bull rush but then grabbed the edge rusher when the quarterback vacated the pocket. That was his only holding penalty in the last two years.
Mitchell’s run blocking improved over the course of his career and, in 2021, his run blocking grade according to Pro Football Focus was higher than every other tackle in the nation. This shows up on film, as Mitchell rarely made a mistake and usually made an impact block on any positive runs.
He shows his strength and power at the point of attack on this play to carve out a big running lane over the left side.
He also has the ability to get on the move and find a target in space. This was a regular look the Ragin ‘Cajuns used to good effect:
Mitchell can also be effective at the second level, whether peeling off a block in the trenches to climb to the next level or firing off to take out a target as he does here.
He can be an effective option to run behind in short yardage because he can usually get a surge and rarely allows penetration or gets stood up.
Blocking on screen passes may be one area where Mitchell needs to get better as there weren’t many examples of him doing this effectively. While he is athletic enough to get downfield, his angle and ability to find the target in space here were lacking, despite the play being a success.
Mitchell was called for one penalty in 2020 due to being illegally downfield on a screen pass.
Footwork / Technique
Mitchell has quick feet and active, accurate hands. His footwork and balance need a little fine-tuning but overall he plays under control and has a good fundamental base to work with.
Here’s excellent technique on the reach block as he constantly shifts his position and moves his feet so he can flip his hips and seal his man off.
He shows off his excellent hands in pass protection, fighting off multiple moves here to keep control of the pass rusher.
On this play, he potentially loses the inside leverage advantage when his man spins back to the inside. However, he gets his hands on his man and drives his feet so he can prevent him from getting upfield and recover to regain control.
Here’s an example of where his feet and balance could be cleaner. He initially stays on top of his man but then is thrown off balance and loses contact when his man makes the inside counter move.
Mitchell impressively didn’t have any penalties in 2021, so his on-field discipline is good. This seems to be something the Jets look for in prospects and signings on the line. In his first three years, he had seven penalties in total.
Mitchell’s only special teams role in college was as a blocker on the placekicking unit. Nothing of note happened while he was in this role.
Instincts / Intelligence
Mitchell is regarded as a player with good football IQ and awareness. He does not make mental errors or miss assignments and is particularly comfortable at dealing with stunts.
He’s also adept at finding work in the running game. Here’s a play where he recognized the run blitz and reacted quickly to drive his man downhill and create a huge running lane.
Mitchell has been called for just one pre-snap penalty – a false start – over the past two seasons.
Mitchell was a rare example of a Jets draft pick who was not a team captain but he was regarded as a leader anyway. Coaches have lauded his toughness, competitiveness, consistency and desire to improve.
On the field, Mitchell will regularly display nastiness and will stay on his man and play to the whistle.
On this play he gains an early advantage but keeps driving to push his man downfield and well off the line.
Mitchell didn’t have any injury issues in college. He missed two games in 2020 due to a positive Covid-19 test, but was asymptomatic anyway.
Once again, the Jets are bringing in a player they’ve already had a chance to coach at the Senior Bowl. Mitchell obviously impressed the coaches with his willingness to learn, despite getting beaten a few times in pass protection in the game himself. In particular, he had a few good bouncebacks after being beaten in drills but then handling the same opponent well to get his revenge.
The Ragin ‘Cajuns’ offense mostly featured zone blocking schemes but there were some gap / power plays too. He’ll need to be effective at both to contribute with the Jets.
Mitchell’s athletic numbers are not elite like some of his linemates, but his film displays adequate athleticism to carry out the required assignments of the Jets’ system. The one concern might be that he can’t keep enough weight on to play tackle, in which case perhaps they will move him to center full time if he shows he can handle that.
Mitchell’s film is very impressive and any flaws in his game are very minor and hopefully easily fixable. If he can prove to be strong and athletic enough to make the jump to the pro level and still handle the competition then optimism should be high that he could one day become a potential starter.
His immediate role will ideally be one where he isn’t required to contribute and can learn and develop towards perhaps getting a bigger role in 2023 or 2024. During this time, he could get some reps in jumbo packages or mop-up duties.
In practice, of course, things don’t always go to plan and so he might end up called into action sooner if there are injuries. As things stand, the number three tackle is probably either Chuma Edoga or Conor McDermott, but signing a more experienced option closer to the start of the season may be a possibility.
For Mitchell, hopefully he has a chance to impress in preseason and can bring the same level of consistency to the next level. The Jets needed to come out of the draft with some young quality offensive line depth and may well have found some in Mitchell.