By Jerry McDonald - NFL Writer
Saturday, July 17th, 2010 at 9:59 am in Oakland Raiders.
With reporting day less than two weeks away, the fifth in a series of questions and issues to be sorted out in Napa:
How good is Mike Mitchell, and where does he fit in?
In some circles, the second-round selection of Mitchell, was considered the biggest reach of the 2009 draft. Draft analysts such as Mike Mayock and Mel Kiper were stumped. Mayock admitted he knew little about the Ohio University safety. Kiper had him a seventh-round pick or signing as an undrafted free agent.
It’s known the Chicago Bears had placed a phone call to Mitchell before the Raiders stunned everyone with the selection, but still know one knows if the Raiders reached or were simply on to something with the rest of the league asleep at the wheel.
Mitchell showed some promise late in the season, but conceded in November his development was stunted by hamstring problems which made him a bystander in training camp.
“If you could look at my college tape, and then look at how I was running around earlier in the year and at training camp and in practice, that’s not even the same football player,” Mitchell said.
The Raiders utilized Mitchell in packages where he could play in the box, be a hitter and make the kind of hits that made him a Youtube sensation even if NFL scouts were oblivious.
Mitchell has made good on a promise to spend much of his offseason at the Raiders facility working out, and presumably the athletic training staff has made sure his hamstring issues are a thing of the past.
That means there could be more than a few scuffles during contact drills _ Mitchell missed most of camp but did get in one memorable scrape with Louis Murphy last year in Napa. In the best case scenario, Mitchell helps elevate practice intensity and brings an enforcer’s mentality to the secondary.
Still be determined is how best to use Mitchell. He said he played everywhere at Ohio, but his hitting ability and physicality would appear to far outweigh his ball and coverage skills. He is similar in skill to Tyvon Branch, the fourth-round pick a year earlier who led all NFL safeties in tackles (admittedly in large part because of the failures of the front seven). Branch is considered by the coaching staff to be a potential star.
The Raiders have long played a single deep safety _ it’s an Al Davis staple _ and Branch and Mitchell operate better closer to the line of scrimmage.
Mitchell is part of equation along with an new linebacking corps to make the Oakland defense more stout against the run and more physical.
Exactly how creative the coaching staff will be to get him on the field and make him effective will play out in Napa.
Previous camp questions: