The top end of the New England Patriots’ wide receiver depth chart trends older with soon-to-be 30-year-old Julian Edelman and 30-year-old Danny Amendola, so bringing in a developmental prospect with the future in mind had merit, and Malcolm Mitchell (fourth round, 112th overall) fits the Patriots in multiple ways.
My take: What's not to like? Whenever a pick matches up with the pre-draft "favorite five" series, in which Mitchell was dubbed a personal favorite player in the draft, the decision is naturally met with a positive response. Draft analyst Nolan Nawrocki drew a comparison to longtime Pittsburgh Steelers great Hines Ward. Between Mitchell's hard-nosed playing style on the field and his inspirational story off the field, this is a slam dunk.
Can Patriots buck the trend?: The Patriots' history in drafting and developing receivers is spotty, and the 5-foot-11 5/8, 198-pound Mitchell becomes the next in the pipeline in hopes of changing that history. The last receiver the Patriots developed to the potential they envisioned was Julian Edelman (2009, seventh round, 232nd overall). Mitchell's 1.51 10-yard split at the combine reflects his short-area burst, and that's a trait the Patriots generally look for in their receivers. Mitchell's addition also serves as a reminder that Amendola's contract situation ($5 million base salary, $6.8 million cap charge) could still be an issue for the sides to address in the future.
Revisiting the Chandler Jones trade: This selection puts the final piece in place on the Patriots-Cardinals trade, as New England shipped defensive end Chandler Jones to Arizona in exchange for guard Jonathan Cooper and the No. 61 pick. The Patriots turned the pick into two more selections at No. 78 (OL Joe Thuney) and No. 112 (Mitchell). There are more considerations in play when analyzing a trade -- such as finances and future years on a contract -- but this is the foundation on which that deal will be analyzed in years to come.