Detroit Lions select tight end James Mitchell in fifth round of NFL Draft
Allen Park — With the team's first pick of the NFL Draft's third and final day, the Detroit Lions selected Virginia Tech tight end James Mitchell in the fifth round, No. 177 overall.
A versatile prospect, Mitchell averaged an impressive 16.1 yards per catch on 52 receptions during this three-year career, splitting his time between lining up off-tackle and in the slot for the Hokies.
"At Virginia Tech, I was used all over the field," Mitchell said in a conference call after his selection. "I became a better blocker as the years went on at Tech, but I pride myself on being able to play all over the field. I’m happy to be able to continue to grow and learn behind a guy like T.J. Hockenson and just soak it all in.”
Mitchell is currently recovering from a torn ACL he suffered early in the 2021 season, but he is expected to be ready by training camp. The injury, which limited him to just two games, likely impacted the 6-foot-4, 249 pounds draft stock.
"I think it definitely did," he said. "People want to see how I’m going to be once I get back this season. I can’t control that. All I can control is how I handle this process now, how I go in and work.
"I’m seven months out, seven months and some weeks," Mitchell continued. "I’m pretty much back. I’m doing everything from running, cutting, running routes. I’m expected to be fully cleared by June, at the latest. I’ll be ready to go by training camp. I’m excited."
Mitchell provides Detroit with needed depth behind Hockenson. Brock Wright, an undrafted free agent last season, and free-agent addition Garrett Griffin are also expected to compete for playing time.
"Mitchell has the foot agility and athleticism to separate on a regular basis if he can tighten up his route running and play closer to his top speed," NFL.com analyst Lance Zeirlein wrote. "He's capable of attacking the seams and is talented with the ball in his hands when he has run-after-catch opportunities. As a run blocker, Mitchell puts in adequate effort but his man ends up near the action or making a play on too many snaps. He has the size to play in-line but might be best suited in a role as a pass-catching H-back."
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Meet James Mitchell
Position: Tight end
College: Virginia Tech
Height/weight: 6-foot-4/249 pounds
Notable stats: He caught 52 passes for 838 yards and seven touchdowns over his final 27 games with the Hokies. He averaged 17.2 yards per reception in 2019 and 16.7 yards per reception in 2020 before a knee injury cut his 2021 campaign short.
Analysis: Mitchell was mostly a receiving tight end who lined up inside and outside for the Hokies. He’s recovering from a torn ACL he suffered in a Week 2 game against Middle Tennessee State, which likely impacted his draft value, but he figures to be a complementary piece alongside starting tight end T.J. Hockenson.