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Under the Microscope: Mike Mitchell

So just exactly who is this guy? Well, let’s start in high school. Mitchell went to Highlands High School in Kentucky. As a senior he recorded 87 tackles, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, and one defensive touchdown.

He was a two-time northern Kentucky All-Star and honorable mention All-State his senior year Cris Carter would say "honorable mention, honorable mention".

His team won the state title in 2004; however, Mitchell only received three Division I offers. Perhaps it was his size that turned scouts away. He stood a whopping 5'11" and weighed all of 188 lbs. He was nowhere near his frame today—6'1", 220 lbs.

He decided to become an Ohio Bobcat. During his career in Ohio he was a four-year letter winner. He compiled 212 tackles, 126 solo, 90 in run support, and 15 for loss, and defended 20 passes with seven interceptions, two sacks, and four forced fumbles. Despite his impressive stats, NFL scouts didn't think that he was legit. They overlooked this hard-hitting, versatile, very quick and powerful safety that had shown a knack for making plays in the box.

He started in Ohio as a free safety but played his last 22 games at strong safety. Few college safeties showed acceleration and closing speed relative to Mitchell’s. He did not receive an invite to the NFL combine in February of 2009. This did not deter him; on the contrary it motivated him. He had one of the best pro days of any college player in the country. He benched 225 lbs. 21 times. He jumped a 37.5" vertical jump. He had a 10'3" board jump. He ran a 4.49 40-yard dash.

When all was said and done, Mike Mitchell was what the scouts love—a sleeper. According to Oakland head coach Tom Cable, he visited as many as 15 NFL teams. Cable said after the Raiders drafted him 47th overall, “When you see tape of this guy you’re going to see a guy that has that Ronnie Lott, that Jack Tatum mentality. He literally knocks people out. It allows you know, to get back to that Raider style of football, which is really the reason I wanted this guy so bad.”

Mitchell said he was watching tape one day when he came across Jack Tatum. He said he didn’t know who it was at the time, but he was so impressed that he had to get his hands on every tape of Tatum he could find. He aspired to play like him. Now that he is in Oakland he has his chance.

When asked about what he thought of all the criticism the Raiders received after drafting him so high, Mitchell said, “I definitely have a lot of motivation. Some people (Mel Kiper) basically said I wasn’t a good football player from the moment I got drafted."

He later said: “[It] makes me want to play harder...I do know one thing; if people don’t respect me now, I’m going to get that respect at some point.”

You earn it boy, do your thing. Raider Nation wants to see you keep your word on this one. We would love to see you make Mel Kiper eat those words. Mitchell supposedly said he would hang a picture of Kiper in his locker to motivate him. Later, he thought better of it and decided he could motivate himself without the help of that photo. But I might hang a picture of Mel Kiper on my wall to remind me to be a better talent evaluator.

If you haven’t yet seen his college highlight tape on, you definitely need to check it out. Here is the link. I strongly recommend this; I have watched it at least three times. This guy is a devastating hitter and a ball hawk. He has great instincts and a nose for the ball.

He is fun to watch as he sits back, reads, and sees the whole field. He is going to be a great safety in this league, and he should make his presence felt immediately in silver and black. He has developed a close bond with safety Tyvon Branch and said during the season last year that it would be a dream come true for the two to be on the field together for the Raiders.

This is a guy that quarterbacks are going to have to try to avoid throwing the ball near. Not only that, but during the last half of the 2009 season, they became aware they would have to watch for him on nickel cornerback blitzes as well. But, if a wide receiver takes a hit from this man in the open field, it will hurt him. The receiver will remember it, and he will hear footsteps for the rest of the game. This is the type of player who strikes fear in the heart of his opponent.

Mitchell should see the field more this year after gradually working his way into more action late last year. Much of his limited time at the start of the ’09 season was due to missing a large part of the mini-camp and training camp period due to bad hamstrings. Basically he pushed too hard to impress, but with an NFL season now officially under his belt, Mitchell should be accustomed to the workout routine.

With a full off-season to work with the team, Mitchell could make a lasting impression on the coaching staff, and see play in the recently developed three safeties package, and may also take over the starting free safety role on running downs that was held by Hiram Eugene last season. One thing is for sure, the kid has a bright future, and he is worth keeping an eye on moving forward.

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