clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

2020 NFL Draft Prospect WR Denzel Mims

Speed, athleticism, character

Baylor v Oklahoma Photo by Brett Deering/Getty Images

Denzel Mims was a tall skinny kid in high school who became a four sport star in a small town in Texas. He played every position on the floor for the Daingerfield basketball team and earned district MVP honors in in 2015. He was a quarterback in football all the way until his freshman year in high school. That ended when he hurt his arm pitching for the baseball team.

“I hurt my arm when I was pitching as a freshman in high school Mims said, “I still can’t throw a spiral at all.” Mims had to change positions. With his size and speed the wide receiver position seemed like the best choice . “I was upset for a while but then I came to the reality that to be great in football I needed to start working on this position,” he said.

He played wide receiver and safety on his high school team, but he achieved his greatest prep level success on the track team. Mims won the Texas 3A 200 meter state championship with a time of 21.3 seconds. “It was amazing,” Mims said. “I came into state with the second best time, but I knew I was going to win it. I ended up winning by 20 meters. I needed to win to bring back a gold medal.”

Mims also helped his school as an anchor on the 4x100 and 4x200 relays. He had a 100 meter time of 10.88 seconds. Yet for all his speed he did not receive as much love on the recruiting circuit for football. As senior Mims was a 6’ 3” 180 lbs receiver. He did get offers from Baylor, North Texas, Texas State, Texas Tech, Arkansas State, Central Arkansas and Tulsa. The Tulsa offer was enticing as his cousin Keyarris Garrett was a star receiver there at Tulsa and now plays for the Carolina Panthers.

“I just looked up to them and wanted to do what they did,” Mims said. “I looked up to Keyarris a lot. His senior year (at Tulsa) he led the nation in receiving yards. That’s why I wear No. 15 now is because he wears 15 with the Panthers.”

In the end he chose Baylor because it was a place he always wanted to attend. “I’ve been into Baylor since I was little, I always wanted to come here. When you’re young, you see a good team and a color you like, and you want to go to that school. That’s what I stuck with and I wanted to learn more about it. It’s close to home, so I said I wanted to be a Baylor Bear” he said.

Mims played as a true freshman but mostly on special teams. He had a mere 4 receptions for 24 yards his first year. That changed completely his sophomore year as interim head coach Jim Grobe was replaced by Matt Rhule. Also Baylor’s two most accomplished receivers K. D. Cannon and Ish Zamora left for the NFL.

Neither guy actually made it in the NFL. Both Cannon and Zamora were UDFA’s who bounced around the league for a short period of time. The Jets claimed Cannon off waivers on May 9, 2017, mostly because of the 4.42/40 he ran at the Combine. Alas, he didn’t make it through training camp and was waived on July 28. He went to the CFL and was waived by the Roughriders. Recently he was cut by the L.A. Wildcats of the XFL. Going pro was a poor decision for both of them.

Mims still learned from his two teammates in his season playing with them. “I saw the way Ish works every day and went full speed every play,” he said. “There wasn’t a play that he was off, and I know I needed to do that to be great. When we lost Ish and KD, I knew I had to step up and help the team at receiver so we could be good as a receiving corps.”

Mims meanwhile was working on his body as well as his game. By the start of 2017 Mims was up to 197 lbs, gaining strength and learning the nuances of the position. Remember Mims had never been a receiver until he was a sophomore in high school. In the first 3 games of the season Mims had 7 catches, 214 yards, and 3 TDs but it was against weak competition, Liberty, UTSA and Duke. Worst of all, they were all in losses.

Mims had the turning point of his career the following week against Oklahoma with 11 receptions, 192 yards and 3 TDs. It proved to his teammates as well as to himself that he could play at a high level. “Oklahoma is the No. 3 team in the country, so it felt good to be able to do that against them, I knew I had to step up and Coach Rhule pushed me and told me I needed to be productive and give it my all. I bought in to what he said and went out there and did it,” Mims said.

“He has so much talent and so much potential, and he’s working at it, but that was the first time you saw some confidence where he knew he could do this,” said Baylor coach Matt Rhule. “The plays down the sideline, he became a guy with the matchup where we didn’t feel like they could cover him and he didn’t feel like they could cover him. And that was really good for the quarterback to know, that if he had 1-on-1 he could go over there to Denzel and he’d make the play.”

Even though Baylor won only a single game in 2017, Mims had a breakout year that showed the great potential he had. He ended 2017 with 61 receptions 1,087 yards and 8 TDs. He continued to work on his game. He also worked on getting his body into top shape until he reached his senior year where he was up to 217 lbs but he was still lean. He had added 37 lbs of muscle since he left high school.

I could show you 50 clips of Mims making great catches, but I narrowed it down to 16 that best show his skillset. Remarkably these all come from the 2019 season.

Denzel Mims is an explosive receiver with speed, an enormous catch radius (33 1/4” arms), power that he uses well, and strength to bully defensive backs. He also has strong hands that he uses to catch the ball away from his body. He is a natural hands catcher.

Here he is in the Sugar Bowl against Georgia being played by Eric Stokes, a 6’ 1” 185 lbs press corner, who will try to muscle Mims.

Watch how he uses his length to keep the corner from his body. The corner can’t effectively press you if he can’t get to your body. Mims also has excellent hand usage as he is able to bat away the hands of the defenders who try to grab him. He keeps the defender away with his length until he (all at once) turns towards the throw, reaches out his hands, and catches the ball in a place the corner can’t even reach. This a near textbook method of technique for a big receiver being played by a press corner. This type of play is why many teams like tall corners with length to guard against such a play.

Tall, speedy receivers like Mims have what is termed “long speed” in that it takes some time to get up to full speed. Those types of receivers have trouble gaining separation from speedy smaller corners. Big receivers need strong hands to make contested catches, grabbing the ball at its apex to keep it away from defenders.

Once the defender turns his head to run with Mims. the QB knows it is safe to make a back shoulder throw. The corner can’t stop what he can’t see. In this play the throw is late because Mims has already turned around expecting the ball which is not there yet. This alerts the defender of the throw. Fortunately the throw is high where only Mims can grab it. In these cases Mims is open even though he is covered because of his leaping ability, his length. and his strong hands. The defender is helpless on this 25 yard reception.

Tough catches can be tough for a variety of reasons. They can be contested, errant throws, tipped balls, or difficult game situations. Catching a ball with the game on the line is a clutch play. You can’t practice the intensity of those situations. Either you feel the pressure or you don’t. There is no magic way to turn into a clutch player.

This is 4th and 6 in overtime with his team trailing by a touchdown. Baylor’s dream of a perfect season and championship hopes are on the line. With press coverage in his grill Mims is able to cross the defenders face and run a skinny post. He makes the catch with the defender stacked on his back. The QB puts the ball in the perfect spot out in front of Mims with no chance for the corner to make a play. Mims does his job to tie up the game.

With the game tied up Baylor gets the ball to start the 3rd overtime. Mims gets held up slightly heading to the corner of the endzone for the fade route.

Mims mistimes his jump slightly as the corner has a hand in his face. Mims doesn’t have huge hands, but they are just big enough (9 1/4”) to grasp the ball and make the score. Baylor’s defense held TCU on the next possession to give the Bears a close win and a chance at the conference title.

Here again Baylor is down by a field goal to Texas Tech on their own 30 yard line with under a minute to go and a running clock. Mims is at the bottom of the screen. He runs straight up the sideline looking for a back shoulder throw. The QB is moving up in the pocket to avoid the rush so he can’t be as accurate as he may like.

Since the QB is throwing awkwardly he can’t get as much as he wants on the throw. Mims thinks the ball is going to be high, but it has an arc so it’s lower and out in front of him. You can see the athleticism on the play to make the catch, contort his body, keep himself in bounds, and complete the catch. This 20 yard play sparked the Bears’ comeback. They tied the game then won it in overtime.

The next clip shows some speed along with great hands that include his catch radius. This is a poor throw by the QB as Mims is wide open on the play. All he needed to do was throw the ball out in front of Mims for the touchdown.

Mims is running down just outside the numbers but must look back over his shoulder, determine where the ball is going to be, adjust his stride, and angle himself towards the sideline. It’s a fingertip catch as he must hold onto the ball all the way through the catch and the collision with the old man in the red jacket.

I mentioned long speed earlier. Mims was a track guy. He has a long stride, except in rare instances when he gets even with you he is leaving you behind.

Mims is lined up closer to the tackle than the sideline which gives him more room and more variety in routes he could run. He crosses up the defender by running an out and up which puts him in the clear. He has to wait on the ball which gets the corner back into the play and negates any chance for a touchdown. Still it’s a nice hands catch for a big gain.

The next clip is from the same game as Iowa State is trying to double cover Mims with a safety to the inside taking away the middle of the field.

The QB even stares down Mims the entire way, but as soon as Mims goes by the corner to the left even the hold by the defender can’t stop the TD. As long as the throw is on target the defense is beaten. Another view shows it better.

The corner is simply overmatched. Even though he has the quickness advantage, Mims is just too big and powerful for him to handle. Even after the hold Mims is able to keep him behind him so he alone has a chance to catch the pass. In reality any corner who is that size cannot guard Mims. Even if he is covered, as long as the ball is thrown high enough Mims with his height/leaping ability can snatch it out of the air.

Mims can run any kind of route to attack the secondary in all three zones of the defense. His size makes him a QB’s best friend because you just have to get the pass in his vicinity to have a successful completion. Here is an example.

This is just a simple stop route that Baylor used a lot to take advantage of a bailing cornerback, it should be an easy completion. The throw in a little late and way outside. Mims with his size, length, and good hands is still able to haul it in for a quick 8 yard gain.

Mims is considered a big receiver, but he is not some stiff vertical threat who lacks lateral or athletic movements. On the contrary, Mims is an athletic, nimble guy with some wiggle. He can stop on a dime then break off a move laterally to avoid tacklers. This next play is just a basic slant route against a bailing corner.

I don’t know if the QB meant to throw the ball behind Mims, but it is a good thing he did or Mims could have a headache from the safety who was eyeballing him looking for a big hit. This is some excellent athleticism from a big strong receiver that nets some extra yards. Once Mims has the ball in his hands while being on the run he is no easy tackle for a secondary player. A 6’ 2 1/2” 215 superior athlete with great balance is a load.

Some receivers would rather run out of bounds than take a hit. Mims is a football player who fights for every inch he can get. Here is an example.

This is the first game of the year. It’s the second quarter, and the Bears are already up 28-7 against an overmatched Stephen F. Austin team. Mims is running a 10 yard stop route against man coverage. All he needs to do is catch the ball, turn to his right, and go out of bounds. Instead Mims turns left looking for more yardage. He ends up struggling with 3 defenders for a few feet. You have to appreciate the effort, the never say die attitude.

Mims is not the perfect receiver. He has many things to work on, but most college receivers do. Here he is running a double move against bailing off coverage which is hard to do anyway. He does some things well and others not so much.

Mims is inside the 20 yard line which doesn’t leave much room for a double move. If he is going to try, he has to come off the ball like he means to fly by the corner. Mims is far too lackadaisical. There is no threat to the corner. When he does stop he takes a step back which is a no-no. He should take a step forward towards the QB to shorten the throw. If the corner had been in a little better position he could have stepped in front for the interception. If Mims moves forward two steps he probably walks around the corner and into the endzone. You see he does make a nice hands catch well away from his body and brings the ball into his chest as fast as possible which lessens the chance the corner could put his hand in there and yank the ball away. You see a little good and a little bad.

Like I said earlier, Mims will travel anywhere to catch a ball. Here he ventures across the middle where dropping linebackers and safeties lurk, hoping to crush a crossing receiver.

This is a hybrid dig route/skinny post route. He cuts in at 10 yards and goes upfield at a 45 degree angle which should take him into the lion’s den of the safety. Yet on this play he crosses the corner’s face and catches the ball despite the corner’s push. He then can head into the end zone. I have no idea what the safety was doing. He reads the play like he has never seen a crossing route before. Mims shows great concentration as he is pushed just as the ball arrives. He makes a beautiful catch away from his body with arms extended.

This next play Mims is looking to recreate his breakout performance against Oklahoma. He is single covered here which is like stealing.

“He’s got a great future, there’s no question about it. He’s a talented kid who made a lot of plays and some real competitive catches. He’s got a nice frame and runs well” said coach Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley after that game.

When you watch this play it shows you all the hard work that Mims put into his game. Just think that this kid had never run a route until he hurt his arm in high school. Now he has superstar written all over him. Look at every segment of the play. It’s beautiful.

First the corner is up in press coverage, but Mims easily beats it by knocking down the corner’s hands (like I mentioned earlier) then taking an outside release. The outside release gives Mims distance from any safety help that might come. In this case the safety was blitzing so he wasn’t even there in the first place.

Once he gets even with the corner, he leaves the corner well behind with his speed.

Now he has to pick up the flight of the ball to determine where he is going to catch it. He does this so he can regulate his speed to make sure he catches the ball with outstretched hands in front of his body. The corner is in catch up mode, but he will never make it there because Mims knows where the ball will come down. He keeps the corner on his back. This is called “stacking the defender,” and there is no way the corner will ever get near the ball. The corner’s only hope is to interfere with Mims, but the outstretched left arm of Mims keeps him so far away he can’t even do that.

Watch from the end zone view as Mims tracks the ball. He is so in control with his ease of movement. He is not even running. He is gliding towards the ball making the grab like he is playing catch in the park. The corner is overmatched. Watch when Mims glides into the endzone, and tell me he doesn’t look like Julio Jones on this play. This is just awesome.

Mims had only 6 catches in this game for 92 yards and two TDs. He should have had more but Baylor got up to a huge lead then tried to sit on the ball which cost them as Oklahoma came back to win.

This last play shows you what a red zone threat Mims can be with his leaping ability. I will go on record now saying that Mims will hit at least 39” in the vert jump and over 10 12 feet in the long jump at the Combine.

Again this is like stealing with no safety in the middle of the field and Mims being guarded by D’Shawn Jamison a 5’ 10” 190 lbs corner. There is no way a player that size is going to cover a player who is bigger, stronger, and faster with better leaping ability one on one. That defensive coordinator is delusional. The QB is hit as he throws, or this would have been even easier.

Denzel Mims is an outstanding prospect who as of now is very underrated. He is a great vertical receiver but so much more. Yes, he can run by you for a 90 yard TD, but 16 of his 24 career TDs have come from the 22 yard line or closer.

He is a humble kid who works on his game. Back in 2017, his breakout year, he had 61 receptions for 1,087 yards & 8 TDs. In 2018 he had 55 receptions for 794 yards and 8 TDs. In 2019 he had 66 receptions for 1,020 yards and 12 TDs. When asked about his down year in 2018 he made no excuses.

“I wasn’t focused, I wasn’t myself the whole season, I wasn’t healthy. I knew coming into this season that I had to handle my business and be there for my brothers, because there were a lot of times last year where I wasn’t there when they needed me, and I wasn’t making the plays they were expecting me to make. So, I knew I had to do a whole lot better.” Mims said. Mims took a lot of hits in his career but never missed a game, he is a gamer.

After his 4 catch 24 yard first year with the Bears, Mims was asking coaches to switch him to cornerback. (He was a safety in high school.) “I knew they had a defensive mindset, and I felt it was my chance to show myself. I honestly felt I could have been a high pick at corner. They saw me practice a few times the first few days, and they were like, ‘No, we want you at receiver.’ So they saw what I could do at receiver, and we just took it from there.” Mims said.


Denzel Mims is a big play receiver who can be the #2 if not the #1 receiver on most teams in the NFL. He is not getting a lot of respect right now, but I have a feeling that will change after the Combine. Baylor is a program that is not on the level of Alabama or Ohio State so a player from there can get overlooked.

Mims will be an X receiver in the NFL, but there is no reason he could also fit as a Z. He is strong enough to beat press coverage and fast enough to run away from it. He will be a demon in the red zone with his great size and leaping ability. Mims has great contact balance. He doesn’t go down with arm tackles, and he will fight you for every yard on the field. Mims is a hard worker and an ascending talent who has gotten better over time. He has made a remarkable transition from a QB to an elite type receiver in a matter of a few years.

He has an impressive catch radius. Due to this and his leaping ability he can catch balls few others could. His ball skills on contested balls and high pointing catches is excellent. He is coachable because he wants to win and because he wants to help his teammates. He is said to be a hard worker. Everything I have read about this kid seems to show great character. He is a team guy, works hard, and coaches seem to like him as do his teammates.

He needs improvement on his route running. He is not bad. He could just get better. Jerry Jeudy is the finest route runner in this class, but Mims could group to be just as refined with enough work.

He must work on concentration drops. He will make so many acrobatic catches then drop an easy pass. It is by far his worst trait, but it can be fixed with work and coaching. I think on easy passes he is try so hard to do something he just forgets how important it is to focus on the ball. He also has to come off the ball harder every play to make them all look like the same route. If he wants to break off on a dig or out breaking route he needs to come off “shoulders over toes” to get the defender to flip his hips before he breaks off.

He needs to work on sinking his hips when he goes to make cuts so he can make sharper cuts and explode with more out of the breaks. He was not asked a lot to make downfield blocks so I’m sure he will need work on that in the NFL. He needs to learn to work back towards the ball especially on stop routes. If an NFL defensive back reads the play he will hop in front of you for a pick six opportunity.

When I see Denzel Mims at his best he looks just like Julio Jones, but he is not even close to that level yet. That’s OK because when Julio came out of Alabama he wasn’t the All Pro Julio Jones either. It took work.

After seeing nearly all the receivers in this draft class I think Denzel Mims could have the highest ceiling out of all of them. If he listens to coaches, works hard on his craft, studies tendencies, and watches film he could be an All Pro in a few years. That is saying a lot, but I think the talent is there.

Now, how much will he progress? I don’t know. I do know that most receivers in this draft class do not have the ceiling of Mims and that includes Jeudy and Lamb. The chances that he gets there are less than 50%, but still the opportunity is there. Also a lot depends on which team he goes to and what type of system they run.

I have a low 1st round grade on Mims which I think is a little high especially for me because I usually put a high emphasis on catching the ball and hammer players who have drops. Yet I sense that his kid is special enough to prove me right. Only time will tell. I know most people won’t agree with me, but that is OK because I only go with my scouting acumen, not what everyone else says or thinks.If he ran better routes and caught the ball better I would have him above Jeudy and Lamb.

That’s what I think.

What do you think?