The New England Patriots offense could become a juggernaut in 2018.
Quarterback Tom Brady’s favorite receiving target Julian Edelman will be back on the field for the first time with Brandin Cooks, Danny Amendola and tight end Rob Gronkowski, assuming Gronk doesn’t retire in the offseason. However, the one addition that has flown under the radar is third-year wideout Malcolm Mitchell.
Bill Belichick has a reputation for missing on quality receivers in the NFL Draft, but Mitchell’s 2016 rookie campaign was the exception to the Patriots’ struggles to hit on a talented receiver. It was mind-boggling to watch a fourth-round draft pick earn the trust of the greatest quarterback of all time by immediately picking up one of the league’s most complicated offenses.
In the Super Bowl LI comeback against the Atlanta Falcons, the 24-year-old wideout managed to snag six receptions for 70 yards. Brady looked in his direction at the most critical moments of the game without even flinching.
“He’s got great hands, really big hands for a receiver… kind of like Gronk,” Brady said on WEEI, via ESPN’s Mike Reiss. “Malcolm has such confidence in his hands and it’s great for run after catch because the ball never gets to your body and slows you down. You can really snatch the ball away from defensive backs.”
Those expecting the Patriots to ride into the sunset after losing to the Philadelphia Eagles at Super Bowl LII could be in for a rude awakening in 2018 when Edelman and Mitchell return to the field.
The latter is even more important because he’ll provide the team the depth it desperately lacked on offense last season. His return eliminates the need for the team to sign a waning veteran free agent like Kenny Britt, who will likely be on the bubble heading into training camp.
Mitchell missed all of his sophomore season in the NFL after being hampered by a knee injury. He should finally be healthy by the start of training camp, ready to contribute to another inevitable playoff run for the Patriots.
“This entire season I missed, it was a very adverse situation,” Mitchell told Reiss. “That obviously wasn’t something I wanted. It happens in football, just like situations happen in life that you have no control over… I’m feeling great. This offseason will be big. Obviously I missed all of last season and I won’t shy away from the importance of making sure I’m ready when we start OTAs.”
Mitchell’s performance as a rookie could mean great things for the Patriots’ future at receiver.
He still hasn’t even scratched the surface of his talent at the position. A veteran version of the player we saw in Super Bowl LI could be a complete game-changer for a team already loaded with offensive talent, further delaying the swan song of a never-ending dynasty.