The Robin to Bryce Young's Batman
Every great team sets a prototype for other teams to follow in its trail. Whether it is teams drafting versatile weapons that can be used all over the field like the 49ers, teams drafting hog mollies and defensive linemen like the Eagles, or teams pairing their first round quarterback with an accomplished second round receiver like the Bengals; prototypes are all over the NFL. Frank Reich and the Carolina Panthers chose to follow Cincinnati’s prototype by drafting Alabama quarterback, Bryce Young in round one, and Ole Miss wide receiver, Jonathan Mingo, in round two.
Mingo was one of the few bigger body receivers in this year’s draft class, but in today’s NFL that does not mean he is limited to playing solely on the outside. In Lane Kiffin’s offense, Mingo was used as an X receiver, a big slot, and occasionally even in the backfield. Mingo is a bull with the ball in his hands; he is willing to run through anybody and seeks contact after the catch. He does a great job at getting downfield immediately and exhausting every play’s potential. That same strength and aggression comes out when he is tasked with making crucial blocks in the run game. He is not a “pure slot receiver”, but his fearlessness when having to crack linebackers and bigger bodied defenders make him an asset inside. There is a willingness that Mingo shows as a blocker and when having to make catches over the middle of the field. A certain level of concentration is required to make catches through windows of the defense, and Mingo has no problem with making plays between the hashes. His bigger frame allows him to box defenders out as a receiver in the red zone. He has good speed, but it is his short area burst when the ball is in the air that creates separation for him. His combination of strength, willingness, and YAC ability is what gives the Panthers hope that he can be Bryce Young’s number one receiver of the future.
While he is versatile as a player, I believe he has some limitations that could prevent him from turning into “the next Tee Higgins”. My biggest qualm with Mingo are his unnatural hands; he is a body catcher that seems uncomfortable “plucking the ball out of the air”. While his concentration over the middle of the field is impressive; he has not shown the ability to consistently make contested catches or just catch the ball smoothly. The lack of aggression at the catch point creates a very limited catch radius. His strength and physicality in the run game allows him to play in the slot, but he does not have the ball skills or short-area quickness to be the reliable matchup that teams want playing in the slot. Against corners and nickels, Mingo does not have the athleticism to garner much separation at a frequent level. In his early years, Mingo will need to rely on his physicality while getting more comfortable catching the ball with his hands and discovering different ways to get open.
The mindset and strength that Mingo plays with is something that every team covets. If he can get more comfortable plucking the ball out of the air and get more creative as a route runner, Mingo will end up being a true number one receiver. There are only a handful of receivers who have those capabilities, but it will take time for Mingo to develop them. In his early years, I anticipate the Panthers using him primarily as a run after the catch guy. His physical tools remind me a lot of Evan Engram who is more of a receiver than a true tight end. Since it will take time for Mingo to develop as a receiver, I would have liked to see him go to a team where he is not asked to be the number one guy from day one (like a playoff team in the end of round two). With that being said, he is going to learn from Shawn Jefferson, one of the best receiver coaches in the NFL. Having a veteran like Adam Theilen in the room, who is known for his route running ability and reliability as a pass catcher, is exactly what he needs. He is set up for success in the NFL with the Panthers, and is in a place where he can grow and develop.
Separation Skills: 7.5/10
Hands + Catch Radius: 6.75/10
Route Running: 8.25/10
Physicality + Play Strength: 7.25/8
Body Control + Movement Skills: 6.75/8
After the Catch: 5.25/6
Short-Area Quickness: 3.75/5
Competitiveness + Intelligence + Effort: 4.25/5
Final Rating: 80
Projected Position: X or Big Slot
Pro Comparison: Evan Engram
Draft Grade: Late Second - Early Third