Instant analysis of the Lions drafting James Mitchell

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The Lions built up the tight end room with their first pick on Day 3 of the 2022 NFL draft. James Mitchell of Virginia Tech joins the Lions as the No. 177 overall pick in the fifth round of the draft.

Mitchell is more of a “move” tight end who can also align in the backfield and operate as an H-back or even play fullback if needed. The 6-foot-4, 249-pound Mitchell had a strong 2020 campaign for the Hokies, catching 26 passes and scoring four TDs in nine games. Unfortunately, he didn’t get to build off the solid season.

Mitchell tore his ACL early in the season in 2021 and missed all but two games. Entering the year he was a player often seen as a potential riser into Day 2 of the draft, but the injury stymied his momentum. He is on track to be ready for training camp, so the Lions seem fine with his injury progress.

On the field, Mitchell has a lot of traits that work well for the Lions and what they ask of the No. 2 TE. He can align in-line and effectively chip an outside rusher on his way out. Mitchell is a high-effort run blocker, though his hands and posture do tend to drift too high.

Where he’s at his best is in catching a short pass and turning it upfield quickly as an outlet receiver. His route-running is solid and he’s got nice feet, though some technical refinement and efficiency of movement should help him out here.

The Lions desperately needed an upgrade at the No. 2 spot behind T.J. Hockenson–who entered the weekend as the only tight end under contract beyond next season. Mitchell immediately jumps to the top of the crowded TE depth chart behind Hockenson as long as he’s fully recovered.