Who? Mike Mitchell, I said. You know, that guy that Mel Kiper ripped on draft day, stating sarcastically that he was the 73rd safety on his big board and that Oakland probably could have signed Mitchell as an undrafted free agent.
We’ve since discovered a different reality than the one Kiper laid out that day. Mitchell's agent said Chicago had called him around pick 40 and asked if he was ready to be a Bear.
Said Mitchell: “I was thinking about going to Chicago, because they told me to stay close to my phone. Oakland was able to get to 47, and I thought there was still a chance there. It’s amazing how this all happened and worked out. I’m just pumped.”
According to the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said that after Brian Robiskie (Cleveland) and Mike Mitchell (Oakland) went in the second round, it was time to trade out.
They traded right out of the round in a swap with Seattle, who picked up highly touted center Max Unger. Angelo said, “Unfortunately the players we targeted at 49 did not fall to us, and we weren’t in a position that we were able to move up; we just didn’t have enough.”
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. 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, scouts didn't think that he was legit. They overlooked this hard-hitting, versatile, outstandingly quick, powerful safety, who showed 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.
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.”
Mike 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 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 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.
If you haven’t yet seen his highlight tape on YouTube.com, 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 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.
This is a guy that quarterbacks are going to have to try to avoid throwing the ball near. 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.
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