2020 NFL Draft Scouting Prospect Profile: Denzel Mims, Baylor
Unlike many of the wide receivers who are going to get full scouting profiles early on in the NFL draft process, Denzel Mims was not expected to enter the conversation as one of the elite talents of this draft class. His standout performances at the Senior Bowl have NFL Draftniks and team scouts buzzing about the potential of the massive perimeter wide receiver from the University of Baylor. From Eric Edholm of Yahoo Sports “That’s two strong days from Mims, who stepped it up another notch on Wednesday. The 6-2 3/4, 206-pound wideout has 33-inch arms, underrated speed and quickness, and he uses his hands very nicely to keep defenders at bay. He has been a standout in every phase.”
These late-rising prospects are always more interesting for our purposes than the straight-up studs who performed every year in a linear fashion in college. Those players are much easier to peg and draft according to production and athletic testing. The same is not true of a player like Mims who turn 23 during his rookie NFL season and fits the mold of a traditional NFL wide receiver less than he would have 10 years ago.
Denzel Mims And Wonky Production
If you have been following the work we are doing on prospects here at RotoExperts closely, or have just been a dynasty fantasy football player for a long time, you know that the first mark of a successful NFL wide receiver is “did he play as a true freshman?”
The significance of playing high-level football at the age of 18 (or 19 in some cases) should really be intuitive. Imagine being 13 years old but playing varsity basketball; how do you think that would have went for you? This, of course, is a not a 1:1 analogy but is it statistically true that the better wide receivers play at a younger age, the better they project as pros. While Mims was not a full time starter, he played in 11 games for a seven-win Baylor team that threw for less than 3,000 yards.
Then, the Baylor Bears hired Matt Rhule to be their head coach (now the head coach of the Carolina Panthers). Baylor won ONE game, including embarrassing losses to Liberty and Duke but in his first season as a starter, Mims posted 61 receptions for 1,087 yards and eight touchdowns. No other Baylor player had more than five touchdowns that season and his 1,081 scrimmage yards more than doubled up every other player on the team. For a truly bad team, Mims was productive. This is sort of the opposite of the Jerry Jeudy problem. What do you do when a player is the only player capable of production on a historically bad college football team?
Baylor bounced back a little in Mims’ junior season but future 49ers draft pick Jalen Hurd lead the Bears in receptions and receiving yards though Mims again lead the entire team in touchdowns. If you were a pro-Mims analyst you would say that the encroachment of Jalen Hurd is not horribly concerning due to his future in the NFL. The continued touchdown scoring is a positive as well because that is the sort of role that Mims projects to in the NFL. If you were not as much into Mims as an NFL player, you could reasonably say it was a bad sign that in his age-21 season, Mims was outproduced by a fringe NFL player like Hurd and that when the team got more well-rounded, Mims took a step back.
However, in Mims’ final season at Baylor, he put to rest many of those concerns with 66 catches for 1,020 yards and 12 touchdowns all of which were top-four in the Big 12 conference in 2019. No other Baylor skill position player scored more than seven times and no other player topped 811 scrimmage yards. Mims basically re-performed his sophomore season but was able to do it this time on an 11-3 Baylor team that could have theoretically won the Big 12 conference championship and played in the college football playoff.
Projecting Denzel Mims To The NFL
So this is where we are with Mims: he was a four sport-athlete in high school who switched from QB to WR who is a little overaged but has two very good seasons of production at a power five school. He is measured at 6’2, 205 pounds which is more or less perfect size for an NFL wide receiver in 2020. Much of how we feel about Mims for dynasty purposes is going to come down to how highly he is drafted and how well he performs at the combine. I tend to be more forgiving than other data-based analysts when it comes to over-aged production (like Hakeem Butler) as long as it comes with an early breakout age which Mims has.
Using the Rotoviz Similarity Score tool, and setting Mims’ draft position at a rather pessimistic 120th overall, his list of comps is more encouraging than discouraging.
LaFell has had streches of reasonable NFL production, James Washington looks like a decade-long NFL player, and even Greg Salas and Nick Toon had cups of coffee before ultimately not panning out. As you can see from the sim scores, the higher that Mims gets drafted, the better his comps are going to be (duh). Personally, it was just enlightening to see that several multi-year NFL players were towards the top of his sim scores.
It is an instructive exercise to see what the film watchers and scouts think about players like Mims who don’t have a clear designation through analytics. Benjamin Solak of The Draft Network summed up Denzel Mims’ game as “Denzel Mims is a strong Day 2 candidate for a team looking to develop a starter at the X or Z receiver position. Mims has a catch radius the size of Mars, with unfathomable leaping ability, tremendous concentration and body control in the air, and the hand strength to snag and secure balls at the very extent of his considerable frame. “ Matt Waldman of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio has already callled him one of his favorites of the 2020 NFL Draft class. Holistically, the film grinding community seems higher on Mims than mock drafts and NFL scouts do at this moment in time.
After a strong week of practices at the Senior Bowl and a (hopefully) impressive combine, it wouldn’t surprise me to see Mims end up going where players like Mecole Hardman or JJ Arcega-Whiteside went in the 2019 NFL Draft. Mims is well outside of the top-12 rookies for fantasy football purposes at this early stage but he has plenty of room for growth.