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This is A Strange Rookie Receiver Class
As with every receiver class, there will be players who don’t play to expectations and players who will wildly exceed them. This year feels like there is a higher potential for a boom-bust group.
This class has 7 players with immediate starter grades and another 9-10 with a significant promise to become starters. There are more players this year (22) than last (16) who I believe can become reliable starters—60-80 catches, 800-1,100 yards, and 6-8 scores—regardless of quarterback talent. Yet, there are only 9 who have the potential to develop into perennial Pro Bowl players compared to the 14 I forecasted for last year.
What the numbers above tell me is that there is more talent in this receiver class than advertised, but it is lacking the refined talent that ultimately dictates lasting NFL success. 2023's rookie receiver class has a lot of prospects with promising athletic makeups and route-running potential, but there's also a wide-ranging lack of ball skills:
- Accurately tracking the target.
- Adequate body positioning against the coverage to attack the target.
- Accurate hand positioning relative to the trajectory of the target.
- Adequate attack of the target.
Considering the range of difficulty in addressing ball skills ranges from moderate to extreme difficulty, the chances of this class matching the production of recent classes are improbable despite the wealth of promise in other facets of their games. The promise is the appeal, the drops are the landmines buried under many of these prospects' games.
But Drops Aren't A Sticky Stat...
Congratulations, you read Matt Harmon and Dwain McFarland--as you should. Drops don't kill the prospects of receivers — at least in the general sense.
In the box score, all drops are equal. On film and with quality charting, all drops aren't equal.
Dwain and I had this discussion recently and we agree that there's not enough data at this point to differentiate drops in a statistically meaningful way at this point. We also agree that drops likely differ in value based on the nature of the drop.
Terrell Owens, Brandon Marshall, Sammie Coates, Robert Meachem, and Gabriel Davis are known for their drops. Owens and Marshall were excellent primary receivers. Coates and Meachem were early-round picks with excellent athletic profiles but lacked the reliability to become the primary option in an offense. Davis is productive as a secondary starter with big-play ability when the offense schemes his targets to maximize potential success.
Here are their career catch percentages:
- Owens: 57.7%
- Marshall: 58.9%
- Coates: 45.3%
- Meachem: 61%
- Davis: 54.1%
The data on its own doesn't tell us much. Owens and Marshall had lower percentages than Meachem, but Meachem never earned more than 45 receptions and 722 yards during his 7-year career. Marshall played nearly twice as long and only dipped below 45 catches 3 times and 722 yards 4 times. Owens played 15 years and all but one season was better, if not dramatically better, than Meachem's best year.
Coates and Meachem were athletic enough to match the feats of Marshall and Owens. All four had low catch rates relative to other NFL starters. What this tells us is that, despite the lower catch rates, teams trusted Marshall and Owens more than Coates and Meachem.
Based on the film, Marshall and Owens had focus drops—mistakes predicated on the receiver not looking the ball all the way into their frames because they were preoccupied with running after the catch before they fully secured the ball. This isn't to say that they didn't have drops due to lapses with attack, positioning, and tracking, but those mistakes weren't the primary problem.
The offenses that coached Marshall and Owens knew this and fed these receivers the ball because they knew the benefits far outweighed the drawbacks. This wasn't the case with Coates and Meachem, whose catching techniques had legitimate holes that went beyond focus issues.
Their lapses limited the routes, coverages, and matchups that quarterbacks felt comfortable targeting them. The same is true of Davis, who generates big plays and solid production for the Bills as a schemed-up first read for plays designed to trick the defense and leave Davis wide-open or as the second or third read who has time to outrun the defense if the Bills' offensive line and/or Josh Allen can buy enough time.
You won't see Davis targeted on many down-and-distance situations where the opposing defense's best corner is matched against Davis on a timing route. These are the plays that separate Marshall and Owens from Davis, Coates, and Meachem.
This is one of the reasons why not all drops are equal and why many of the promising athletes and/or route runners in this class have landmines under their games.
Jonathan Mingo Isn't One of Them
Mingo is in the RSP's second tier of promising receivers who make up this mine-strewn territory, but he's on safer ground because his ball skills have a sound foundation. Mingo didn't have the type of career that merits high expectations for him as an NFL prospect.
He's not a top-10 prospect on my board, but he has merited a good grade, which is more important than the linear ranking. He's a mid-round value in rookie drafts whose tape potentially makes him a safer value than 4-6 receivers with more buzz who will be taken ahead of him
Mingo's one good statistical year is modest compared to other college prospects: 51 catches, 861 yards, and 5 touchdowns. He played a role that was similar in scope to his predecessor. Dontario Drummond, whose best season was a 76-catch, 1,028-yard, 8-score campaign in 2021.
Considering both had a similar role on the same team, most wouldn't expect Mingo to be the better prospect than Drummond, a 2022 UDFA signee of the Dallas Cowboys who spent his rookie year on the practice squad. Yet, that's the difference between box-score scouting and evaluating players based on the context of athletic ability, technical skills, and traits.
The media reports that Mingo's draft capital is on the rise, which could mean that more teams have developed an appreciation of his game. It could also be a meaningless smokescreen based on the timing of the reported increase.
What's most important to me is Mingo's performance against the RSP's evaluation criteria for receiver play. Based on my evaluation of Mingo, he's already grading out as a player who, at the very least, can rotate in and out of an offense as a weekly contributor. If the team that drafts Mingo tailors a role to his strengths, he could deliver starter production relative to the volume he earns.
The 2023 RSP's Scouting Report on Mingo
The information below is the complete scouting report on Mingo from the 2023 Rookie Scouting Portfolio, which includes reports like this for 149 more prospects at QB, RB, WR, and TE. Now in its 18th year of publication, the RSP is one of the two most purchased independent scouting guides by NFL scouts and personnel management, according to SMU's Director of Recruiting, Alex Brown.
It's also the only one of the two guides that also considers a fantasy audience that includes a Post-Draft guide with a tiered cheat sheet of over 200 players and used ADP data to calculate a sweet spot for where to maximize value relative to my post-draft views on prospects.
You get the RSP here. When the Post-Draft is ready, I'll email you and you can download it from the same site.
WR Jonathan Mingo RSP Scouting Profile
Depth of Talent Score: 83.6 = Rotational Starter: Executes at a starter level in a role that plays to their strengths.
Games Tracked (Opponent/Date/Link):
Mingo is a physical player who can overpower or handle collisions at the catch point, after the catch, and as a blocker. He’s also agile, quick, and fast enough to earn separation in the vertical game or avoid pursuit. He’s a skilled ball carrier who will patiently create rushing lanes against unblocked pursuit defenders over the top of him, but he also knows when to drop the pads and run through them.
He has enough of a toolbox with release footwork and hand counters to earn playing time as a rookie and build and refine that repertoire as he gains experience. The best thing about his route game at this stage is the willingness to attack coverage at full speed—especially when attempting to manipulate them with his stems. His breaks can be flatter, but the elements to achieve flat breaks and deliver them at an acceptable speed are there.
Mingo has a wide catch radius and skills to earn position and protect the ball against tight coverage on vertical routes as well as routes breaking across the field. There are only small things that hold him back from becoming an elite pass-catcher. One of them is some late second-guessing of the appropriate hand position for the target, which has led to drops.
Mingo is one of the best blockers at his position in the class. He can handle defensive backs and linebackers and maintain position against them through the whistle. He doesn’t use the ideal form of strike a lot but has shown that he can.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Mingo develops into a starter capable of earning season totals between 900-1,300 yards during the peak years of his career. He’s not as physical as Boldin and not as refined as Brown, but he’s going to become a presence that’s hard for opposing defenders to handle.
Mingo's Notables Based on Film Study
Where has the player improved? He has improved the weight drop with three-step breaks.
Where is the player inconsistent? Break steps.
What is the best scheme fit? Mingo is used in the capacity of an H-Back in this offense and even earns meaningful reps on running plays as a wing-back or in-line tight end.
What is his ceiling scenario? A primary wide receiver for his team who can be a flanker-slot hybrid capable of a high catch volume and big plays.
What is his floor scenario? A player restricted to one role and not used imaginatively enough to maximize his production as a starter.
Physical: He gives and takes physical play like a pro.
Technical: Catch positions at the numbers
Conceptual: His understanding that he should attack leverage at full speed when running stems.
Build: A large-prototypical flanker. He’s built like a feature back.
Releases: Mingo uses a two-point, staggered stance with 80/20 weight distribution favoring his front foot. His arms hang at either side of his knee and uncrossed. He can roll off his front foot without wasted motion when releasing from the line of scrimmage. However, every 3-4 routes, Mingo rocks off the back foot.
He sinks his body before beginning the release, but not enough to truly sell the vertical route.
When he runs a route rather than stalk blocking, the bend is still insufficient to sell the vertical as well as he could sell it. He still gets his pads over his knees and pumps his arms as he releases downhill and with his eyes up.
He has a one-step stretch with some patience and suddenness. He pairs it with a wipe counter when the defender shoots hands. He also uses a quick and explosive stick at the top of a stem. He’ll precede the stick with a two-quick when running short slants.
He has an effective combo of a hesitation and two-quick or a three-quick as well as a hesitation and a trigger step when it’s against off-coverage. He’ll also use them to steal a release or a double-up. He also pairs a one-step stretch with a shed. His shed is violent enough and close enough to the frame of his opponent to be effective. He also pairs the hesitation with the one-step stretch and then counters with the shed.
Separation: He has the speed to beat a safety playing flat-footed with deep off-coverage. He will get covered step-for-step against shallower off coverage on a fade against a safety.
He can get even against a cornerback playing single coverage with a one-step stretch taking the inside against outside shade. He doesn’t pull away even when 35-40 yards downfield, but he maintains his position.
He can hold off an SEC cornerback from the opposite side of the field up the far sideline for 45-55 yards if he earns a long runway to build up speed. Mingo will stack a defender when he earns early or substantial separation on a vertical route.
Route Stems: He’ll dive or widen stems. He attacks defender leverage at full speed. He’ll use a wipe, shed, or swim as the counter.
Route Setups: Mingo will set up a defender with a widening or dive and then a stair step of a stem. He’ll also do it to take the back of a defender who has already flipped his hips to turn and run downhill. He sells vertical routes with his eyes, setting up double moves like the slant and go or the post-fade with his eyes during his stems.
Route Breaks: Mingo looks for the ball and turns his frame to the target out of breaks. He’s sudden with his breaks on short stop routes but could cultivate more bend in his hips and accelerate into the top of the stem.
He transitions into the weight drop with an elongated break step. He has a sudden elongated break step when he uses it. He executes a three-step break with weight drop and quickness to earn separation against coverage playing over the top of him—an improvement this year.
He must continue to improve the speed, quickness, and efficiency of the movement to earn separation against other forms of tight coverage. He will break back to the quarterback but needs to continue working on attacking this break type with more explosion throughout the duration of the act and the route as a whole.
His drive step and line step aren’t sharp enough for a flat break, but based on how they appear, there’s room for Mingo to improve with these steps. The drive step is sharp enough for over routes. He can execute the drive and line step with a good break step on a short speed out.
Zone Routes: Mingo works to depth against the identified defenders in the second level and will tempo his break across the open zone. He’ll also settle under the nearest defender with routes breaking back to the quarterback.
Route Boundary: Mingo is aware of the boundary when running curls and comebacks. He’ll toe-tape on perimeter-breaking routes.
Pass Tracking: Mingo tracks the ball over his shoulders and can extend wide from his frame to earn the ball on a vertical route. He’ll extend his arms to helmet level and catch the ball without leaving his feet.
Mingo can impressively track the ball directly over his head and late and full extension with his back to the defender.
He has late hands with back-shoulder targets but has lapses where he’s too early with his hands and tips off targets to trailing defenders who can time their attack of a target.
Hands/Catch Radius: When extending wide for a vertical route, Mingo uses underhand position with targets over the shoulder at his waist – with or behind the break path. He can make fingertip catches.
He also can use overhand or underhand position based on the height of the target. He second-guesses overhand position with targets at the numbers and makes last-second changes to underhand position, which isn’t advisable after already committing to the ideal overhand position earlier in the target’s trajectory. He has dropped wide-open passes on the numbers for this reason.
He'll make sliding catches with underhand position on low throws into his body against tight coverage or on vertical routes after running full speed downfield. He also wins the ball high and away from his frame.
When extending for targets away from his frame, he has to trust his fingertips rather than trying to pull the ball to his frame upon contact. He must secure the ball first and then retract.
Position: When falling to the ground when making an extension for the ball, he can roll through the landing to avoid landing flush on the ball. He has a capable jump through that’s early enough that his leap is perpendicular to the ground. He has an effective pull-down from tight coverage.
Focus: Mingo can take contact to his back and make plays on vertical routes over his shoulder with contact tight to his frame. He’ll make sliding adjustments to throws that require him to leave his feet against tight coverage. With coverage tight to his downfield hip on a deep post, Mingo can one-hand a target away from his downfield shoulder, snatching it from the opponent.
Transitions: He will catch and pierce and obey the ball, but he has had lapses where he needs to obey the ball and not second-guess the placement as soon as he sees a flash of a defender. He’s also had lapses where he needs to be confident using his size to continue with full commitment in the original direction of his catch and pierce.
Elusiveness: He has a quick stutter step to freeze pursuit. He can layer stutters with a dip or stick to set up defenders playing over him. He only needs two gather steps to transition downhill from a perimeter approach. He can leap over defenders shooting for his legs.
He has quick stop-start movement in the open field to allow defenders to overrun pursuit angles. He’ll use tight spins to transition from tight coverage over the top of him on a route breaking back to the quarterback.
Vision: Mingo can second-guess the best rushing lane and will attempt to go against the grain when a decisive attack downhill with the grain of the play’s development is best. That’s the exceptional circumstance with Mingo. Overall, he’s a downfield runner who knows when to attack and when to evade. He has good awareness of defenders playing over the top, and he’s patient with unblocked defenders playing in that position, setting them up well to create an open lane for himself.
Power: He drops his pads and pulls through reaches, keeping his feet moving through contact. He can pull through multiple reaches during a run and bounce off a glancing hit while pulling 1-2 defenders forward for additional yardage.
Direct Contact Balance: Mingo can stalemate a linebacker in the open field. He can bounce off direct contact from a cornerback and a safety. He’ll run over a safety in the open field with great pad level.
Indirect Contact Balance: He bounces off indirect contact from defensive backs and linebackers.
Ball Security: Mingo tucks the ball to his boundary-side arm, keeping the ball high to his chest. He takes contact to the ball without losing it.
Blocking: Mingo stalk blocks with patience upon approach with the defender. He shuffles his feet and slides laterally with a wide stance and good bend in his knees and hips. He extends his arms, aiming for the chest, and keeps his feet moving. He doesn’t punch as his default approach, but he works his hands inside to the breastplate and can move a defensive back 4-5 yards off the ball when he earns position early.
Mingo will slide and square to cut off the defender. He uses an uppercut to earn position inside but doesn’t deliver a punch with force or with the roll of the hips. He leans on his size and strength advantage against most defensive backs he faces. He can anchor his position against a linebacker coming downhill with a strike. He can also peel off the assignment and shield the linebacker flowing to the edge.
He earns position with Man Over Me and Most Dangerous Man assignments. He’ll also earn position for Most Dangerous Man Assignments and peel off to the next opponent based on the progression of the runner.
He squares up effectively on the wing against defensive ends and outside linebackers. He can seal a defender to the outside with a shield of his frame, even if he can’t dictate position with a push. Mingo also earns good position to the force defender’s outside shoulder in order to seal him inside.
He earns position as a reach blocker to the flat from the wing. He could do a better job of earning the inside shoulder of the defender to turn the opponent outside and seal the lane behind him. He does a better job with this when the linebacker is passed off to him. Mingo occasionally second-guesses his approach with these blocks and misses the angle he could have earned.
He’s also effective as a backside blocker winding back to the opposite side of the formation.
He’ll do some double teams with the tackle as a pass protector. He earns the correct shoulder with good enough hand placement to keep the defender inside of him.
Although Mingo rarely cut blocks, he uses it well as a seal of an inside defender when he misses his first stand-up attempt and is peeling back inside to earn position. He delivers the cut with enough height to work across and through a defender’s legs. His timing is good, and he keeps his head up to see what he’s hitting.
Durability: Broke his foot in October 2021 and was out for multiple games.
Pre-NFL Draft Fantasy Advice: Mingo was really close to earning a score that would have placed him within the top-five receivers on my board. If you prefer the upside of Mingo to the players ranked 3rd through 10th, I wouldn’t begrudge you if it allows you to harvest value from another position first. I think his floor isn’t as risky as any of those players ranked ahead of him despite not having the same development as them as a route runner.