The Philadelphia Eagles and the Denzel Mims conundrum

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In a loaded wide receiver class, there’s one name that continues to stand out in relation to the Philadelphia Eagles. It’s not Henry Ruggs, it’s not Jalen Reagor, and it’s not even Justin Jefferson. Baylor’s Denzel Mims continues to pop up in conversations and mock drafts and it’s easy to see why. But there is a conundrum.

When it was revealed yesterday that the 6’3 wideout had been talking most with the Eagles, fans were left purring. It implies the Eagles are at least having serious internal discussions about taking him at pick 21. Why wouldn’t they?

At the combine, Mims had to be seen to be believed. Measuring in at 6’3, 207 lbs, he ran a 4.38 in the 40-yard dash and a 6.66 three-cone drill. Hello Mamacita. This came on the back of a week of practices at the Senior Bowl where he ripped the competition to shreds in one-on-one drills, demonstrating his euphoric catch radius.

With a pair of 1,000 yard seasons to his name, Mims is set to enter the NFL with one of the highest wide receiver ceilings of the entire class. He’s like a football magnet when the ball is in the air, using his body in video-game-like ways to snag uncatchable passes from the air. Mesmerizing to watch, Mims just decimates whoever stands in front of him at the catch-point.

Tracking the ball goes hand-in-hand with that ridiculous transformer-like skillset and as a result, he adjusts so, so well for his quarterback. Mims is constantly able to leverage his huge frame to climb the ladder or drop into open space in order to compensate for the coverage or pass thrown.

That play-strength also bleeds into blocking, where Mims is ferocious. If you want a receiver who will look for work when the ball isn’t thrown his way, Mims is your guy.

So why am I not hopelessly in love with Mims? What could possibly be the point of this article if he’s that good?

Mims is a bonafide star at the next level – I’m certain of it. At least, if he lands in the right spot. There’s one glaring weakness in his game…and while it has improved from 2018-2019 and then again between the end of the season and the Senior Bowl, it’s still raw – Route running.

I don’t mean the route-tree. I don’t mean his speed. I don’t mean his athletic tangibles. I mean the skillset needed to run a route.

Mims is never going to be a DeAndre Hopkins level route-runner. Nobody would ever expect that. At 6’3, 207 lbs, we have to temper expectations, but we can’t just throw them aside completely and hope that his rabid athleticism is enough to mask the deficiencies.

Before I get into the next bit, I just want to make one thing clear. I LOVE Denzel Mims. I’m working on an article/video right now that grades each receiver in relation to what the Eagles need out of the position. He graded 46.5/60. CeeDee Lamb graded out at 52.

Release

This is a double-edged sword. Mims actually uses his hands violently at the line of scrimmage and can generate a clean launch as a result. But in the instances where the DB jams Mims or is able to bat down his hands, we often see him lean into that contact – resulting in a missed step, loss of balance, and disrupting the timing of it. This is why so many of those simple in’s and out’s look like ridiculous catches. When contested, good luck stopping Denzel Mims. But most catches seem to be…because getting that clean release just isn’t as easy as it looks.

The stem

There were numerous occasions where through the stem of the route, Mims ends up hurting himself when driving through contact. Again, it’s not the end of the world, but he can lose balance, end up a little top-heavy, and have to go above and beyond to drive the CB off of his body just to create a re-routed window.

The break

This is where Mims struggles most. Because of his size, it’s much harder for him to sink his hips into a break and then burst out of a cut to generate speed and separation. He almost has to just accept there’s going to be a DB draped over him and in one motion, get the better leverage to use that gigantic frame. Against Oklahoma last year, he used a stutter-and-go route and the corner (I believe was Parnell Motley) just stood and watched, waiting for Mims to pick back up.

But…

This is all coachable. It’s not the end of the world. No receiver is perfect and Mims has come a long way since his 2018 tape. But coachable is the key word…and if we look at the Eagles recent history of developing WR talent, it’s concerning.

Yes, Aaron Moorehead steps into the fray with a flurry of praise and a new hope. But the Eagles have had a new WR coach in each of the last four seasons and developing talent in that time has hardly been a resounding success. Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson, and more recently JJ Arcega-Whiteside have all just…stagnated almost. There are exceptions to the rule such as Greg Ward Jr, but he came back ready and raring after blowing up the XFL, so how much of that the Eagles deserve credit for, I’m not sure.

Denzel Mims is a bonafide star at the next level – if someone can really chisel away at that route-running. If the Eagles take him at pick 21, it is the ultimate vote of confidence in Moorehead, which could be seen as a blessing and a curse.

In a year where the Eagles need speed so badly, it would be a 4.38 wideout who doesn’t look like a 4.38 wideout because of that weakness. It would be arguably passing on a higher floor for the chance at a higher ceiling, knowing the position doesn’t have time to reach it. It would be Howie doubling down on a coach he is yet to see actually coach. It would be going all-in on the revamped offensive coaching staff to avoid what happened with a similarly sized catch-radius monster in JJ Arcega-Whiteside. It would be a gamble. The stakes could not be higher, but the reward looks so tantalizingly juicy that it’s almost hard not to take the plunge.

Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

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