Over the next few months, we’ll break down every Jets rookie, including undrafted free agents. Today we break down Louisiana offensive lineman Max Mitchell, selected by the Jets with the 111th overall pick, in detail.
Mitchell, 22, is 6’6” and 299 pounds and was a 2021 Third Team USA and Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
Mitchell was just a two-star prospect out of high school but headed to Louisiana where he played every game as a backup tackle in his true first season.
He became a starter as a sophomore, starting every game, then was selected to the Sun Belt Conference second team after making 10 more starts during his junior year.
In his senior year, Mitchell was an all-conference first-team pick and won the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year award. He was also named to the All-American Third Team.
After being invited to the Senior Bowl and 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, broken down into categories.
Mitchell has adequate length and although the Jets list him at under 300 pounds, he was actually 307 at the combine. Some reports suggest keeping the weight off could be a challenge for him, however.
His combined practice numbers are a mixed bag with solid numbers for the wide jump (106 inches) and short shuttle (4.65) but mediocre numbers for the three-cone drill and the vertical. His 40-yard rush time was slightly below average at 5.32, but he shows quick feet on film.
On his pro day, he ran 40 again, but only gained two hundredths of his time. He also did the bench press, but posted 21 reps below average.
Mitchell has experience starting games at both tackle positions and has also seen rotational action at left guard. During Senior Bowl practices, he also reportedly worked to learn how to crack the ball so he might consider becoming a possible center option.
As a freshman, he mostly fell back 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 from guard. He started just two games at left during his junior year with the rest at right tackle. He was almost exclusively right-wing in 2021.
It has also been used as a jumbo pack tight end and even lined up in the slot on a gimmick game.
Mitchell’s pass protection numbers were solid in college, especially in his freshman year when 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 Louisiana ran an offense where they often got rid of the ball quickly.
Much of his film, however, is impressive. He moves his feet well towards the mirror, uses his hands to control his man, and is smart with his approach so he effectively uses a setter’s momentum against them.
When the bull lunges, he is often pushed back at first, but then he is able to re-anchor himself and he can “pull the chair” and bury his man if he is overweight.
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 position and get out in front of the setter.
Mitchell also had a holding penalty that nullified a long pass in 2020. It was on a play where he re-anchored against a bull rush but then grabbed the edge rusher when the quarterback- rear left pocket. It was his only detention penalty in the last two years.
Mitchell’s run blocking has improved over the course of his career and in 2021 his run blocking rating according to Pro Football Focus was higher than any other tackle in the country. This shows up on film, as Mitchell rarely made a mistake and generally blocked impact on all positive runs.
He shows his strength and power at the attacking point of this play to carve out a big lane of traffic on the left side.
He also has the ability to move around and find a target in space. It was a regular look that the Ragin’ Cajuns put to good use:
Mitchell can also be effective in the second level, whether it’s taking off a block in the trenches to climb to the next level or shooting to eliminate a target like he does here.
He can be an effective option for running behind in a short as he can usually have a thrust and rarely allows penetration or gets up.
Blocking passes on screen may be an area where Mitchell needs to improve as there weren’t many examples where he was doing it effectively. Although he was athletic enough to get down the field, his angle and ability to find the target in space here was lacking, despite the game’s success.
Mitchell was called up for a penalty in 2020 for being illegally on the court during a screen pass.
Mitchell has quick feet and active, precise hands. His footwork and balance need work, but overall he plays under control and has a good fundamental to work on.
Here’s a great technique on the carry block as he constantly changes stance and moves his feet so he can flip his hips and seal his man.
He shows off his excellent hands in pass protection, fending off several moves here to keep control of the pass rusher.
On this play, he potentially loses the advantage of inside leverage when his man comes back inside. However, he gets a hold of his man and pushes off his feet so he can stop him coming up the pitch and recover to regain control.
Here is an example 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 moves the inside meter.
Impressively, Mitchell hasn’t had any penalties in 2021, so his discipline on the pitch is good. It seems like something the Jets are looking for in prospects and signings down the line. In his first three years, he received seven penalties in total.
Mitchell’s only role on special teams in college was as a blocker in the placement unit. Nothing of note happened while he was in this role.
Mitchell is considered a player with a good IQ and good football awareness. He doesn’t make mental mistakes, doesn’t lack homework, and is especially good at handling stunts.
He is also adept at finding work in the racing game. Here’s a play where he recognized the blitz run and reacted quickly to drive his man downhill and create a huge running lane.
Mitchell has only taken one pre-snap penalty – a false start – in the past two seasons.
Mitchell was a rare example of a Jets draft pick who wasn’t a team captain, but was considered a leader anyway. Coaches have praised his tenacity, competitiveness, consistency and desire to improve.
On the court, Mitchell will regularly show meanness and stay on his man and play the whistle.
On this play he gets an early advantage but continues to drive to push his man down and away from the line.
Mitchell had no 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 once had the chance to coach in the Senior Bowl. Mitchell obviously impressed the coaches with his willingness to learn, although he himself was beaten a few times in pass protection in the game. In particular, he had a few good rebounds after being beaten in drills but then handled the same opponent well for revenge.
The Ragin’ Cajuns offense primarily featured zone blocking patterns, but there were also gap/power plays. He’ll need to be effective at both to contribute with the Jets.
Mitchell’s athletic numbers aren’t elite like some of his linemates, but his film displays adequate athleticism to carry out the required missions of the Jets system. The only concern might be that he can’t keep enough weight to play tackle, in which case they might move him to full-time center if he shows he can handle that.
Mitchell’s film is very impressive and any flaws in his acting are very minor and hopefully easily fixable. If he can prove he’s strong and athletic enough to step up to the pro level while managing competition, optimism should be high that he can one day become a potential starter.
His immediate role will ideally be one where he is not required to contribute and can learn and grow to possibly land a bigger role in 2023 or 2024. During that time he could get reps in giant packages or cleaning tasks.
In practice, of course, things don’t always go to plan and so he might be called upon to intervene earlier if there are injuries. As things stand, the number three tackle is likely to be 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 gets a chance to impress in pre-season and can bring that same level of consistency to the next level. The Jets were expected to come out of the draft with youthful, quality offensive line depth and may well have found some in Mitchell.