Yahoo Sports' top 2020 NFL draft prospects, No. 21: Baylor WR Denzel Mims

Eric Edholm
·8 min read
Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports
Albert Corona/Yahoo Sports

21. Baylor WR Denzel Mims

6-foot-3, 207 pounds

Yahoo Sports draft grade: 6.02 — possible immediate starter

TL;DR scouting report: Long, slender playmaker who reels in highlight catches but needs some refinement before he can be great.

The skinny: A 3-star Rivals recruit, Mims chose Baylor over Kansas State, Texas Tech and Texas A&M. As a true freshman in 2016, Mims played in 11 games (one start) but only played on offense in six of them and was hardly used (four catches, 24 yards).

The next spring, he asked the staff to move to cornerback, but new head coach Matt Rhule wanted Mims to stay at receiver. Smart move — Mims earned second-team all-Big 12 after catching 61 passes for 1,087 yards and eight TDs, including an eye-opening 11-192-3 receiving performance against Oklahoma.

In 2018, Mims caught 55 passes for 794 yards and eight TDs in 12 games. As a senior in 2019, Mims caught 66 passes for 1,020 yards with 12 receiving TDs in 14 games, earning first-team all-conference mention.

Mims, who turns 23 years old in October, was a standout at the Senior Bowl and NFL scouting combine, participating in all the drills there.

Upside: Excellent combo of length and speed. Outstanding arm length — nearly 34 inches. Moves and operates like you’d expect from a shorter wideout. Tested through the roof at the combine — tremendous numbers in the 40-yard dash (4.38 seconds), vertical jump (38 1/2 inches), broad jump (131 inches) and especially in the 3-cone drill (a stunning 6.66 seconds). Put up a very respectable 16 bench-press reps with such long arms.

Acrobatic catch artist. Terrific body control and balance along the sideline. Might have more highlight-reel grabs than any other 2020 WR prospect. Extends his body, times his jumps and hauls in some real beauties. Strong, consistent production — 28 career touchdowns (eight or more past three seasons), 55-plus receptions three straight years and a career 15.7-yard receiving average.

Strong showing in Senior Bowl practices — made money that week. Can run crisper routes than he did during the season and appeared willing to accept tips from Detroit Lions’ coaching staff during practice and between reps.

This was a nice rep in Senior Bowl practice vs. Notre Dame CB Troy Pride Jr. Watch Mims get off the line nicely and beat Pride vertically. When the pass is slightly underthrown, Mims gives himself space to make the catch and shield Pride from the ball:

Mims gets away from tight coverage to haul in a nice pass in one-on-ones.
Mims gets away from tight coverage to haul in a nice pass in one-on-ones.

Good savvy and feel for gaining late separation. Can lull DBs to sleep a bit before winning reps. Great tempo changes in routes and quick acceleration — great on comebacks and slants and very natural on back-shoulder throws and fades.

Had a great head-to-head battle with TCU CB Jeff Gladney last season, with each man winning some individual battles. But here (even with the TCU safety guessing wrong) Mims gets the best of Gladney by separating at the top of his stem and reeling in this out-of-frame pass for a TD:

This is strong work to separate and haul in a wide target.
This is strong work to separate and haul in a wide target.

Technique steadily improved the past two seasons with guidance from former Baylor WR coach Frisman Jackson, a former NFL receiver himself who now holds the same title with the Carolina Panthers. Voted by teammates to wear single-digit jersey, which Rhule allowed to be given to the team’s hardest workers and best leaders. Well-liked by teammates. Earned high praise for his philanthropic work with the team.

Downside: Lean build and might not be able to pack on much more weight. Deep speed didn’t always translate on the field — doesn't always separate vertically. Area scouts were giving him Day 3 grades prior to strong Senior Bowl and combine performances.

Hands can be hit or miss — makes a phenomenal catch and then follows it up with a routine drop. Focus issues at times. Body catches and lets balls come to him — could be more aggressive in attacking passes thrown his way. Gets a little careless with the ball.

Watch this catch and run against Texas where Mims sits down nicely against the zone but carries the ball too loosely and it’s knocked out of bounds by a Longhorn defender:

Mims can't be this careless with the ball at the next level.
Mims can't be this careless with the ball at the next level.

Could use a year or two receiving daily guidance from a demanding WR coach. Has all the tools to be a good route runner but lacks polish. Limited route tree at Baylor. Rounds his breaks on routes and his depths and timing varied at times. Wins more with physical gifts than with precision.

Must develop better technique getting off press. Can get handsy and got away with being overly physical downfield — only penalized once for OPI last season but four times in 2018. Gives effort as a blocker but can stand to improve in that department.

Limited slot experience — 122 snaps over four seasons. Likely only an outside receiver in the pros. Strangely poor short shuttle time (4.43 seconds, 10th percentile among receivers), especially in light of his other strong testing. Torched Oklahoma for two TDs in first meeting but then was held without a catch in the rematch in the Big 12 title game — covered mostly by Parnell Motley, a late-round 2020 prospect.

Best-suited destination: Although Mims might be best-served to be a bit of a specialist early on, running the same linear routes he won on in college, we believe he has starter potential — and perhaps to reach Pro Bowl level by Year 3 if his trajectory continues the way it has the past two years.

Among the teams we believe could be interested in his services include the Minnesota Vikings, Denver Broncos, San Francisco 49ers, Las Vegas Raiders, Philadelphia Eagles, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts, Arizona Cardinals, New York Giants, Buffalo Bills, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Tennessee Titans, Lions and Panthers.

Did you know: Last year, Mims became a father with his longtime girlfriend to a daughter, Parker Noel Mims, who is coming up on her first birthday soon.

“Really, fatherhood changed me a lot,” Mims said at the combine. “It changed me as a man. It’s not all about me anymore. It’s about my daughter. So, I’ve got to put my daughter first and when I make decisions I got to think if this is the best situation for my daughter and not for me.”

And last fall when the Baylor football team had rented most of the lanes at a local bowling alley, Mims’ fatherly perspective helped him offer up a nice gesture. He noticed a father and son, Waco residents Cory and Miles Webb, disappointed that there were no open lanes, and they started to leave.

That’s when Mims approached them and offered them to stay and bowl with the team.

“I saw [Miles] was sad, and I have a daughter, so I was like … I would want someone to do that for me and my daughter,” Mims said, via KWTX.com.

Turns out the father and son were Texas fans. Cory posted the story on social media, and Mims earned plenty of new fans for his simple generosity. Including the Webbs.

“It makes it a little harder to not like Baylor now,” Miles Webb said.

They said it: “I take blocking very seriously. I feel like you have to run the ball in this game. You can’t just pass every single down. And, so, if I open up the blocking game, it will open up the passing game. And, so, if I block for my teammates, then they’ll block for me in the quarterback. So, I can get the ball. And I just want to open up the run game and just try to do my best to be elite at everything.”

— Mims at the combine, on his blocking

Player comp: D.J. Chark — but if you squint, you'll see a little Chad Johnson to his game, too.

Expected draft range: Late first or early second round.

Previous prospect rankings: Nos. 100-91 | 90-81 | 80-71 | 70-66 | 65-61 | 60-56 | 55-51 | 50. DT Justin Madubuike | 49. CB Damon Arnette | 48. OT Ezra Cleveland | 47. WR KJ Hamler | 46. CB A.J. Terrell | 45. RB Cam Akers | 44. DL Ross Blacklock | 43. OT Josh Jones | 42. DT Jordan Elliott | 41. C Cesar Ruiz | 40. S Kyle Dugger | 39. EDGE Terrell Lewis | 38. WR Laviska Shenault Jr. | 37. S Grant Delpit | 36. Jonathan Taylor | 35. WR Brandon Aiyuk | 34. EDGE Zack Baun | 33. EDGE Yetur Gross-Matos | 32. CB Jeff Gladney | 31. QB Jordan Love | 30. CB Trevon Diggs | 29. EDGE A.J. Epenesa | 28. RB JK Dobbins | 27. WR Justin Jefferson | 26. WR Tee Higgins | 25. S Xavier McKinney | 24. WR Jalen Reagor | 23. CB Kristian Fulton | 22. RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire | 21. WR Denzel Mims | 20. LB Kenneth Murray | 19. RB D’Andre Swift | 18. QB Justin Herbert | 17. LB Patrick Queen | 16. WR Henry Ruggs III | 15. EDGE K’Lavon Chaisson | 14. WR Jerry Jeudy | 13. OT Mekhi Becton | 12. DT Javon Kinlaw | 11. OT Andrew Thomas | 10. OT Tristan Wirfs | 9. WR CeeDee Lamb | 8. OT Jedrick Wills Jr. | 7. CB CJ Henderson | 6. LB-S Isaiah Simmons | 5. DT Derrick Brown | 4. QB Tua Tagovailoa | 3. CB Jeffrey Okudah | 2. QB Joe Burrow | 1. Chase Young

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