Prospect Profiles: Adonai Mitchell, Xavier Worthy

While LSU’s top-ranked duo of Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr. have garnered plenty of press so far and Florida State’s duo of Keon Coleman and Johnny Wilson have seen a drop in their respective draft stocks, it might be time to shine a spotlight on the two receivers coming out of Austin who both have a chance to hear their names called on Day 1 of the 2024 NFL Draft (Washington’s trio of Rome Odunze, Ja’Lynn Polk, and Jalen McMillan may require a profile in the future, as well).

Junior Longhorns Adonai Mitchell and Xavier Worthy have a chance to be the first Texas receivers drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft since Roy Williams in 2004. This would also make Mitchell and Worthy the third and fourth first-round receivers for the Longhorns in their storied history (Lam Jones, No. 2 overall to Jets in 1980).

Texas hasn’t had the greatest history with sending wide receivers to the NFL. Since 2008, players like Limas Sweed (second round, 2008), Jordan Shipley (third round, 2010), and Collin Johnson (fifth round, 2020) have failed to make an impact at the NFL level. Third-round picks Marquise Goodwin (2013) and Devin Duvernay (2020) are really the only pass-catchers since Williams to make a name at the professional level, though Goodwin only has one season over 432 yards in an 11-year career and Duvernay’s biggest impact has been as an All-Pro return man. Mitchell and Worthy have a chance to change the trends of their school’s history at the next level.

Worthy was a top-100 recruit in the Class of 2021 out of Central East HS (California) in Fresno. After a breakout junior year, Worthy began fielding offers from college football’s best. Despite offers from Alabama, Auburn, Georgia, LSU, and others, Worthy committed to Michigan. He initially intended to enroll early alongside quarterback signee J.J. McCarthy, but trouble meeting Michigan’s academic requirements led Worthy to defer his enrollment until June. He still found an apartment in Ann Arbor, though he couldn’t work out with the team, but moved back home to explore other options after a month, decommitting from the Wolverines in the process.

Worthy had originally chosen Michigan over the Crimson Tide, who had then-offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. When Sarkisian was hired as the Longhorns’ head coach in 2021, Worthy committed sight unseen. Worthy immediately made an impact as a true freshman, leading the team by healthy margins with 62 catches for 981 yards and 12 receiving touchdowns. The next highest totals were 26 catches (Jordan Whittington), 377 yards (Whittington), and four touchdown catches (Bijan Robinson). He finished as a Freshman All-American, first-team All-Big 12 selection, and Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year.

Worthy’s production dipped a bit as a sophomore as Whittington and tight end Ja’Tavion Sanders, who had redshirted in 2021, ate into some of his production. Still, Worthy led the team in catches (60), receiving yards (760), and receiving touchdowns (nine) while earning second-team All-Big 12 honors. It was more of the same last year for Worthy. Once again, he led the team in receptions (75) and receiving yards (1,014), but he was eclipsed in receiving touchdowns (five) by the newcomer Mitchell.

Mitchell was a rare situation of a high school reclassification. Where it’s common to sometimes see recruits reclassify to enter college a year early, Mitchell reclassified from the Class of 2020 to the Class of 2021 in high school, spending his gap year training. Growing up in the Houston area, Mitchell transferred from Westbury Christian School (Texas) to Ridge Point HS (Texas) in order to get more recruiting attention. Still struggling to garner offers, Mitchell followed his father, who moved to Nashville, and transferred to Cane Ridge HS (Tennessee) for his senior year before reclassifying to the Class of 2021.

Shortly after reclassifying, Mitchell committed to Lane Kiffin at Ole Miss. Six months later, though, as the offers continued to roll in, Mitchell flipped to Georgia and then-offensive coordinator Todd Monken. He joined the Bulldogs as a three-star recruit, the 60th best wide receiver in the class, according to 247Sports.

As a freshman, Mitchell was part of a balanced wide receiving corps. While tight end Brock Bowers led the team in every receiving category, Mitchell’s stat line of 29-426-4 (catches-yards-touchdowns) was very similar to then-sophomore Jermaine Burton (26-497-5) and redshirt freshman Ladd McConkey (31-447-5). Mitchell also caught the go-ahead touchdown in the team’s National Championship victory. In his sophomore season, Mitchell was limited to only six games with a left ankle injury. He had nine catches for 134 yards and three touchdowns.

While in school in Georgia, Mitchell’s parents had been looking after his daughter (born the summer before his freshman season). After winning two championship rings with the Bulldogs (and missing most of his sophomore year), Mitchell opted to transfer closer to his family by enrolling at Texas. In his lone season as a Longhorn, Mitchell finished second on the team behind Worthy with 55 catches for 845 yards but led the entire Big 12 conference with his 11 touchdowns.

Mitchell and Worthy present as two different types of receiving options coming out of Austin. At just over 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, Mitchell is a bigger target with a wider catching radius. Mitchell doesn’t sacrifice speed or explosiveness for his size, though. At the NFL scouting combine, Mitchell put up a 4.34-second 40-yard dash, a nearly 40-inch vertical jump, and an 11-foot-4 broad jump. He has above-average acceleration to get him to that elite top speed and uses impressive agility and control in his routes to create separation with stutter routes and by lagging into open areas of coverage. He shows that extra gear when the ball is in the air and has good body control to make adjustments on the ball. When he’s not the quarterback’s target (he was not a high-volume target in college), he’s always looking for someone to block.

Mitchell will need to get stronger at the next level, though. With his lean form, Mitchell can get bullied by more aggressive cornerbacks. While he has a large catch radius, he has smaller hands and wasn’t elite at reeling in contested catches, though he only had one drop in 2023. He also got most of his yardage without the ball in his hands, only averaging 3.2 yards after catch this season, displaying a lack of ability to make tacklers miss as a ball carrier.

Worthy is a bit shorter than Mitchell at just over 5-foot-11. He’s also slight at just 165 pounds. Similar to Mitchell, Worthy had impressive explosiveness with a 41-inch vertical and nearly 11-foot broad jump. Elite speed is what defines Worthy and gives him a chance to be a first-round pick.

You’ll know the name “Worthy” because he broke the NFL scouting combine’s record for the fastest ever 40-yard dash a month and a half ago. Worthy covered the distance in a record-breaking 4.21 seconds. His speed will be his biggest asset at the NFL level. He has great agility to make cuts in his route-running and his speed makes coverage with a cushion a necessity, though often a futile one. He shows good ball-tracking on deep routes and has a good ability to make tacklers miss with start-and-stop jukes. While the smaller wideout can get knocked back at contact, his low center of gravity and strong balance helps him stay on his feet often.

His size will limit him at the next level, though. Despite his impressive vertical jump, he doesn’t show that ability on the field to climb the ladder for high throws. He doesn’t have a strong ability to make contested catches, either, and focus is often an issue that leads to drops, fumbles, and muffed punts.

Despite their weaknesses, both Mitchell and Worthy project as late-Day 1 or early-Day 2 draft picks. Mitchell has great speed with an ideal frame, provided he can put on some muscle. He also displayed a clutch gene in college, often making the biggest plays at crucial moments. His effort and athleticism will draw the attention of several clubs in the mid-to-late first round.

Worthy is much more of a specialty player at the next level, but that certainly doesn’t mean he can’t find success. He was already a second- to third-round projected pick, but his record-breaking speed may be enough to elevate him to the late-first round. Even if team’s balk at some of his shortcomings, Worthy’s speed and special teams prowess (he led the NCAA in punt return yards this season) guarantee him a draft selection in the first two days. Together, the duo will work to change the reputation of pro Longhorn receivers.

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