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Raiders Draft: Max Mitchell, OT, Louisiana scouting report

PFF’s highest-graded offensive tackle in 2021

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: AUG 31 Louisiana v Mississippi State
Max Mitchell
Photo by John Korduner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Without a pick until the third round of the NFL Draft, the Las Vegas Raiders are in a unique circumstance with their starting right tackle situation. Typically, marquee players aren’t available on Day 2 or later but Louisiana’s Max Mitchell carries a mid-round projection and was Pro Football Focus’ highest-graded offensive tackle in college football last season.

OT | Louisiana | 6’6 1/4” and 307 lbs | Monroe, LA | October 12th, 1999 (22.5)

Overview:

Coming out of high school, Max Mitchell was a two-star recruit, the 244th-ranked offensive tackle in the 2018 class and only received one Division 1 FBS offer from Louisiana, per 247 Sports. As a true freshman, he didn’t record any starts but played in every game at left tackle, then started half the year as a sophomore at left guard and tackle and at right tackle for the other half. He primarily stuck on the right side for his junior and senior seasons and ended up allowing 40 pressures and five sacks in four years, while earning PFF run-blocking grades of 85.3 and 95.0 in the past two seasons, respectively.

Strengths:

  • Fast off the ball out of a two-point stance
  • He’s patient on all pass sets, meaning he’ll let the pass rusher come to him and isn’t going to unnecessarily lose ground if he isn’t getting threatened vertically
  • Likes to use 45-degree sets in pass protection and does a good job splitting the edge’s crotch with his first step, and he adjusts the width of his set based on the edge’s alignment
  • Solid aggression on jump sets to get on the defensive lineman quickly
  • Keeps his feet buzzing when uncovered in pass protection to avoid getting caught off-guard by a line game or a late blitzer, and he’s very quick to recognize stunts
  • Times up his punch well and has quick hands to make contact slightly before or right after the pass rusher engages with him
  • Mixes up the timing of his punch, will use one- and two-handed punches, and flashes hands to keep rushers off-balance
  • He has some pop with his hands to stun and stonewall defensive ends and has good placement on the chest
  • Works to reset his hands if he misses
  • Has the strength to lock out defensive ends and the grip strength to help stay engaged
  • When anchoring, he bends his knees well and blocks with low pad level to dig his heels in, and he has the upper body strength to get some lift on edges. He should have little to no problems anchoring against defensive end/outside linebacker body types.
  • His pad level transfers over as a run blocker which can help him get leverage and generate movement when he doesn’t lose at the point of attack
  • If the defensive lineman does get extension against him on running plays, he works to knock their hands off and eliminate the space created
  • On zone runs, he has the strength and adjusts his eyes and hands to ride the defensive lineman’s momentum out of the way when they’re more passive at the POA, whether it’s turning a reach block into a drive block on outside zone or washing a defender inside on inside zone
  • Also is decent at flipping his hips to put himself between the running back and defender when zone run blocking
  • He gets hip to hip with the guard on double teams and scoop/combo blocks to avoid creating creases and make it easier to take over on scoops, and his pad level and strength all him to help guards move defensive tackles on doubles
  • Great hand placement to get under the armpit on down blocks to get defensive ends off balance and ride them inside
  • Stays tight to the line of scrimmage and is good at seeking and destroying linebackers as a puller
  • Takes efficient angles when climbing to the second level and he does a better job of keeping his feet moving after contact against backers to generate movement

Areas of Improvement:

  • A little light for an NFL offensive tackle, he has some room on his frame and could afford to put some weight on
  • Didn’t test well at the combine and earned a 5.86 RAS score
  • He has heavy feet and wasted movement on his pass sets which could lead to issues versus speed rushers at the next level, though he does look more comfortable on the right side than left
  • Is a little quick to open the gate in pass protection, giving up the outside to edge rushers with good bend
  • Has a habit of leaning and lunging when he punches which causes him to get beat around the edge. This is partially a result of his inefficient footwork because he has to make up ground
  • Lacks the change of direction to hold up against inside stick and counter moves, this showed up in his combine testing with an 8.09-second three-cone time. Also, he lacks balance — he will fall on his face versus good inside spin moves — and has a slightly soft inside shoulder that doesn’t help matters.
  • In general as a run blocker, his feet stop on contact, he isn’t physical at the point of attack and likes to lean on defenders which can make staying engaged tough. His nose is constantly over his toes and he lacks the core strength and balance to stay upright when defenders shed his blocks.
  • His hands are late when run blocking too which exposes his chest and leads to some of his issues at the point of attack
  • He doesn’t have the agility and quickness to seal the edge on reach blocks against 5-techniques or wider
  • On inside zone runs, he needs to gain ground with his first few steps and work on his footwork so he doesn’t have to lunge to make contact, this will cause him to get beat inside
  • Slow to recognize and pick up crashing linebackers on combo blocks, especially blitzing backers
Louisiana v Iowa State
Max Mitchell and Trey Ragas
Photo by David K Purdy/Getty Images

Injuries:

  • 2021: Undisclosed injury (missed bowl game)

Projection:

NFL Mock Draft Database consensus big board rank: 115th overall, 4th round

Mitchell’s draft stock has been all over the place. He bottomed out at 144th overall on January 22nd and then reached his peak ranking of 76th overall about a month later on February 27th. However, his projections have leveled out in the last month or so and it’s looking like he’ll fall within picks 100 to 120, give or take a few, and that’s about where I’d have him slated too.

Schematically, while the former Rajin’ Cajun has some technique to clean up in pass protection, I think he has more than enough skills and traits to fit into any time of passing attack. The ground game is a little more complicated though. I don't project him to be the people-moving type of blocker that gap teams would covet, but he also has too many flaws in his zone run-blocking technique and doesn’t have the athletic profile to fit that scheme.

With that, I’d probably lean towards the former as his best fit since some more time in the weight room can fix his biggest flaw in a gap scheme, which would be a lot easier than getting more athletic to fit into the latter.

What do we need to know?

Is he athletic enough to hold down the edge at the next level? Mitchell’s sub-par athletic testing numbers obviously weren’t much of an issue in college, but he did show signs on tape where that could haunt him at the next level. It also doesn’t help that he played against lower completion in the Sun Belt, making the projection a little murkier.

Fit with the Raiders:

It’s going to be difficult to find a starting-quality offensive tackle with no picks until the mid-rounds, so taking a flier on a guy who was the highest-graded tackle in college football last season wouldn’t be a bad strategy. The third round would be a little rich for Mitchell but if Las Vegas wants to address another position in that spot, he’d be a great fourth-round option and give the team someone who can at least compete to start.

The Louisiana product would also be a pretty good fit in Josh McDaniels’ scheme. The Patriots had two running backs — Damien Harris (1st) and Rhamondre Stevenson (8th) — finish in the top ten for most gap runs last year, and Mitchell shouldn’t have too much trouble transitioning in the passing game, schematically at least.

Film Clips: