After an intriguing first year in the league and an abysmal second year marked only by food poisoning and bonehead mistakes, Denzel Mims is going into his third season surrounded by question marks. Can he put it together in year 3, and if he can, will it even be as a member of the New York Jets?
Going into year three is big for players on their first contract; if you come up big your agent can get working on that extension before you hit the final year of your contract. Any room for questions leaves you with everything to prove in year 4, a bad year or an injury could see you heading into free agency not at the top of anyone’s list. That’s the situation Denzel Mims finds himself in headed into the 3rd year of his rookie contract after being drafted by the Jets in the 2nd round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Big Expectations Lead to Big Disappointments
At the time, grabbing Mims after trading down 11 spaces with the Seattle Seahawks picking up a 3rd round pick in the process, was hailed as the move of a genius GM by Joe Douglas in his first NFL draft for the Jets. The Baylor product was reportedly all over draft boards in 2020, with some seeing him as a potential day one pick, and others having him going on day three.
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Mims was a polarizing draft prospect despite strong Senior Bowl and combine performances – Image courtesy of USA Today
The production was there; over a 1,000 yards and 12 touchdowns on 66 receptions in his senior year. Those who liked Mims would point to his raw athletic ability, and his measurables, but not everyone liked what they saw on tape. Over at Walter Football the draft report from those who weren’t as high one Mims was:
“The evaluators who don”t like Mims say he was not a separation receiver at Baylor, which the tape proves. . . . Those team evaluators say Mims also has some issues with drops, does not play as fast as his timed speed, and is not great on 50-50 receptions.”
It’s always easy though when looking at draft prospects to only consider the upside. Mims had work to do coming into the NFL turning all his physical gifts into actual pro-level football play on the field. Everyone in the NFL is athletically gifted; otherwise they wouldn’t be there, but players have to demonstrate the technical ability and intelligence to make those gifts work at the next level. If prospects don’t clean up those weaknesses, either because they’re simply unable to, or don’t put the work in, we’ll never get to see the potential and the upside pay off.
Signs Of Life In Year One – AWOL In Year Two
Rewatching some of the more productive games Mims had in his rookie year in 2020 you do get an idea of what his potential is. After missing the first six games of the year on IR, Mims hit his stride and strung together 3 productive performances putting up a total of 203 yards on 11 receptions: first in week nine against the Patriots, then against the Chargers in week 10, and the Dolphins in week 11.
The first reception of the game against the Patriots, Mims grabbed one on a slant from Flacco, then fought through a tackle to gain the first down and an extra few yards. An impressive sideline grab by Mims late in the 3rd quarter of the Chargers game would set the Jets up for a Frank Gore TD. Mims had drawn 2 PI calls on the same drive; creating problems for the Chargers defensive backs late in the game.
Despite being good performances from Mims statistically you could see all the weakness that came up in the draft scouting reports with an overall catch percentage of 52% on the year for 2020. He struggled to create separation which meant that even though he was able to make things happen once he got the ball it wasn’t happening often enough.
In the Miami game, there was a play in the 3rd quarter where Mims should have brought the ball in for a TD when the Jets were down by 10 points and it could have turned the game. Yes, he was catching in between two defenders, but as a starting NFL wide receiver those are the plays you’re expected to make. The ball was catchable and he just couldn’t make the play. The rest of the 2020 tailed off with Mims only recording another six catches for 73 yards in sporadic playing time for the Jets.
You can never quite nail down the reason a prospect doesn’t show improvement going into year 2. For Mims there’s plenty to consider: was it that he let it all go to his head in the offseason and didn’t prepare himself physically or mentally for year two; was it a new system brought in by a new OC and HC that didn’t fit his skill set; could be that having Adam Gase and flag throw/Patton Oswalt impersonator Dowell Loggains as your mentors in year one wasn’t a positive start to an NFL career. We’ll never know.
All we know is that year two for Denzel was a shambles. Mims was inactive for two games and ‘did not play’ for four other games. When he was on the field he didn’t seem to know what he was supposed to be doing. He was lining up wrong and getting called for penalties on the line of scrimmage. 23 targets, 8 receptions for 133 yards and a catch % of 34.8%. It wasn’t pretty.
Who, Where, & What For?
Mims has done a good job of showing off his potential this offseason to the staff in One Jets Drive, and to other prospective trade partners around the NFL. He turned up to camp looking like he’d lived in the gym since December and had a positive time in training camp, albeit doing do working with the second and third team offence.
Not getting that time with Zach Wilson and the rest of the first team is what led to Mims and his agent putting in a formal trade request prior to the Jets’s final pre-season game against the Giants, citing the lack of first team reps in the press release. He then went out in the final pre-season game and gave both the Jets coaches and the rest of the NFL something to think about. Mims had the best game of his career against the Giants in week 3 of the pre-season with 102 yards on 7 receptions; recording the 1st TD of his career.
When the final 53 man roster for the Jets was released Mims was still on the team with the Jets carrying six wide receivers. Despite the request for the trade and several teams showing interest no-one was able to meet the Jets asking price. The Jets will understandably not just give Mims away; this is a front office that got a fourth round pick for Chris Herndon after all, so a team will have to be willing to part with a fourth round pick, or a player that fills a more pressing need on the team, at a minimum to make this trade happen.
Some teams have already called the Jets about Mims:
Carolina Panthers – After being fleeced by Joe Douglas in 2021 in the Sam Darnold trade (their current back up QB) it’s hard to see how the Panthers’ front office could do business with the Jets again and keep their credibility. Very little that the Panthers do makes any sense, but having just traded for Laviska Shenault Jr. they are likely out of the Mims conversation for now.
Minnesota Vikings – Although they may have shown some interest initially the Vikings have since traded for Jalen Reagor. Longer term Mims could be the successor to an ageing Adam Theilen. A trade to Minnesota though would leave Mims in a similar spot although he would at least be the fourth on their depth chart. With a new GM in place in Minnesota they may be up for throwing a few darts to see who sticks.
Seattle Seahawks – It’s hard to look at the situation in Seattle and not see a team heading into a rebuild. The brutal trade for Jamal Adams still looms large over the Seahawks and they are just coming out from under the loss of picks from that trade. Why the Seahawks would want to give up anything for Mims at this stage would be anyone’s guess; unless they think they’re going on a deep play-off run with Geno Smith. With Metcalf still on the roster it’s not clear what Mims would have to gain from going to Seattle as he’d be playing second fiddle there as well.
Dallas Cowboys – This was an interesting one. Dallas has Ceedee Lamb as their clear number one WR this year, and having lost Amari Cooper they’re left with Michael Gallup coming off an ACL tear in 2021 and not pencilled in to play week one adding another receiver makes sense for the Cowboys, who are in good position to compete in an open NFC East. If they’re willing to meet the Jets asking price this could be one that gets done, especially now that they’ve made some inroads to shoring up their offensive line that likely took priority this past week.
Other potential landing spots for Mims that make sense:
Arizona Cardinals – Kyler Murray just likes to throw the ball up in the air. Deandre Hopkins is out for the first six games of the season, and it’s questionable what AJ Green still has to offer at 34 years old. Mims could have an opportunity to prove himself at Arizona in a system that would fit his skill set better, and to fill a gap alongside Rondale Moore and offseason addition Marquise Brown.
Green Bay Packers – After publicly bashing his WR room *link* Aaron Rogers would probably welcome another addition to the team (he’s wanted it for years now but got Jordan Love instead.) For all the talk of WR issues at Green Bay, this is a crowded WR room. There are 6 WR on the team already with 3 playing on their rookie contract. Lazard and Cobb are likely locks to start, so Mims would be competing with Sammy Watkins for playing time. If things aren’t working out by October though the LaFleur brothers could easily be talking one another into this one over family dinner over the next couple of months.
What Does 2022 Look Like For Mims In New York?
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With the potential of a trade hovering all the way up to November, Mims will have everything to play for, but will he get the chance? – Image courtesy of USA Today
It’s hard to see how Mims will get any regular reps in the offence that is likely to be run, and 12 personal heavy when he has Elijah Moore, Corey Davis and Garret Wilson in the starting roles ahead of him, and Mims knows that as well. The best chance he likely has is an injury or serious regression in play from Davis which is a situation he can’t be happy with.
For his sake and the Jets it is better if a trade can happen. It may not happen before week one; Mims could easily be a prime candidate for deadline day on November 1st. A team who right now doesn’t feel the need to part with the necessary draft capital now could feel differently when injuries strike or finding themselves with a better record than they expected. Ultimately the Jets will get what they want for Mims if he is traded; they’ve no reason to let him go for any less and can afford to wait it out and let Mims compete for 2022.
There are offences out there that need someone with Denzel’s skill set that give him a fair opportunity to succeed. Best case scenario on the Jets is that he sucks it up for this season, plays the time he’s given and hopes that he shows enough that Joe Douglas and Robert Saleh are happy to cut Davis next off-season and give Mims the opportunity in the starting role in year four of his rookie deal. Targets will be at a premium and Mims is going to have to make every rep count if he’s going to have any long term future in New York.