Snub fueled Mitchell's rise

When the Raiders used their second-round draft pick on Mike Mitchell, the criticisms came out from everywhere because most so-called NFL experts didn't have him on their draft board. That lack of respect is what helped spark Mitchell's rise to prominence.

Even before the announcement of his name sent NFL analysts and so-called draft experts scurrying to find any scrap of information they could dig up him, Mike Mitchell was already somewhat of a cult legend on the internet.

Videos of Mitchell delivering jaw-rattling, brain-shaking hits on wide receivers while playing safety at the University of Ohio are choice viewing on YouTube and should be required viewing for anyone who wants to know what it looks like to knock someone out.


"I think there's been like three," Mitchell said on the day he was drafted in the second round by the Raiders with the 47th overall selection, a move that easily went down as the most surprising of the entire draft simply because most people, including most of the panel of experts on ESPN and the NFL Network, didn't even know who Mitchell was.

"Usually everybody gets up," he continued. "But there's three that I've actually, really, put down."

That might not be the only reason that the Raiders and apparently at least one other team had their sights set on drafting Mitchell in the second round, but it is without question the most prominent.

Oakland's secondary, which was once manned by the hardest hitting tandem of safeties in the history of the NFL -- Jack Tatum and George Atkinson, hasn't had a steady physical presence for the past 15 years. Albert Lewis, the late Eric Turner and Hall of Famer Rod Woodson made brief stops there but Lewis and Woodson were on the final legs of their career while Turner shockingly passed away from complications due to stomach cancer in 2000.

That's why Davis thumbed his nose at the rest of the league and the talking heads on television and used his second round pick in the draft on a player who has the potential, at least in Tom Cable's eyes, to become a very feared player in the NFL.

"He's probably the most ferocious hitter in the draft," Cable said. "A very, very physical guy, and it just so happens he can fly. When you see some highlights of this guy, you're going to see a guy that reminds you, and I don't want to put too much pressure on the guy, but he has that Ronnie Lott, that Jack Tatum mentality. He literally knocks people out. Knocks the pile back, knocks runners backward, knocks receivers backward."

The comparisons to Lott and Tatum are obviously premature but the point is clear. And if it's not, go to YouTube and type in Mitchell's name, then sit back and watch the show.

One video in particular begins with the question, WHO IS MIKE MITCHELL? As the tape begins to play, the answers start to come in a flurry of big hits. There's Mitchell leveling a running back coming out of the backfield. There he is hammering a tight end, seconds before the video shows a blitzing Mitchell nailing an opposing quarterback.

On and on the hits come and the opponents fall, continuing until the 6 ½-minute highlight film comes to an end with three scrolling words: NOW YOU KNOW.

Yet on draft day, few people really were sure who Mitchell was, even those who are supposedly in the know.

Mitchell wasn't invited to the Scouting Combine in March, something that clearly bothered him. He used the snub as motivation for his Pro Day workout when he caught the eye of numerous scouts around the league and saw his stock begin to rise. NFL Senior analyst Ed Thompson spoke with Mitchell shortly after the workout and had this observation:

At 6-foot-1, 220 pounds, the former Bobcats defensive back had startled NFL scouts with a Pro Day workout that included 21 bench press reps, a vertical jump of 37.5 inches, and a pair of sub-4.5-second 40-yard dashes. And when teams started to review more film, they saw a fast-to-the-ball safety who really packs a wallop when he hits people, forcing their legs to fly out from under them as he lowers his shoulder into their chest. He made 62 tackles during his senior year, forced a pair of fumbles and picked-off three passes.

"I looked at the day as, 'finally here's my chance.' I just wanted to get in a room with guys like William Moore, Mike Hamlin and Louis Delmas and compete with those guys. But since I didn't get to do that, my Pro Day was my chance to show that I could," he said.

Mitchell worked out for the Chicago Bears, who stayed in close contact with him following his Pro Day, and for the Bengals during their local Pro Day for area athletes. And he had official visits with the Indianapolis Colts, the Cleveland Browns, the Oakland Raiders and the Green Bay Packers.

"I would be lying if I said that I knew I was going to get drafted on the first day, but my agent, Brian Hamilton of Plan B Sports told me I had a good chance," Mitchell said during a phone call Monday night. "He called me at about pick 44 or 45 and told me that Chicago had just called and to stay close to the phone, that he thought I was about to be a Bear."

But before Chicago had an opportunity to make their move, Oakland stepped up to make their second-round pick.

"Pick 47 rolls around and my phone rings, and it's Oakland, and they said that they were going to draft me. Once I got off the phone with Coach Cable, we went nuts, I went running down the street barefoot, just screaming. It was a really good time."

Read the complete story on Mike Mitchell and the rest of the Raiders draft picks in the May issue of Silver and Black Illustrated.

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