As the NFL draft inched closer, one of the biggest climbers was Jonathan Mingo. His production profile in four years at Mississippi certainly left something to be desired, but there’s no denying his athletic ability and the exceptional landing spot he finds himself. Fantasy managers, however, need to determine if they’re getting a little bit ahead of themselves.
When it comes to Mingo’s 2022 potential, it’s hard not to see it. Everything is right there, staring you in the face. In the NFL Draft, he received excellent draft capital, he’s an elite Relative Athletic Score (RAS) producer, he’ll be catching passes from the No. 1 overall quarterback, and he has minimal target competition. Everything we want for immediate rookie success is right there, but has Mingo shown us enough to believe he can capitalize on all of that?
Fantasy managers are completely justified to be excited about his 2022 prospects and I am as well, but it’s always important to keep our expectations in perspective. What is Mingo’s ceiling look like in 2023? Should he be someone fantasy managers target aggressively this season? Let’s dive in and please use promo code “BOOM” for 10% off of any premium purchase.
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Jonathan Mingo was a four-year player at Mississippi and didn’t surpass 400 yards receiving until his senior season. When you look at his production, there are some questions that arise. As a true freshman in 2020, Mingo played in 12 games and finished his first collegiate season with 31 targets, 12 receptions, 172 yards, and a touchdown. It was a fairly disappointing inaugural season with him catching just 38.7% of his passes and finishing with a yard-per-route run average of just 0.72. In his defense, things weren’t very easy for him. His average depth of target (aDot) was 14.2 yards and 12 of his 31 targets were deemed to be contested catches per PFF.
His sophomore was marginally better, but if you were hoping for a breakout, you’d have to wait. He played 10 games during a Covid-19 shortened season. He finished with 50 targets, 27 receptions, 379 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Like the previous season, the coaching staff continued to use Mingo as a downfield threat. He ended the season with a 13.8 aDot and according to PFF, lined up as an outside on 83.3% of his routes. This was slightly down from his 85.7% rate as a freshman. His efficiency slightly increased, but only modestly – his yard per route run average climbed to just 1.11, leaving a lot to be desired.
His junior was more or less, much of the same. Although in his third year, the former four-star recruit missed seven games due to a broken foot, only appearing in six. He ended the season with just 38 targets, 23 receptions, 360 yards, and 2 touchdowns. On a positive note, his yard-per-route run average increased to 1.66, showing some real improvement.
Even more impressive, however, were his first three games. He had 25 targets, 16 receptions, 304 yards, and 3 touchdowns before injuring his foot the following week in practice. It definitely makes you wonder what might have been. Was he on the verge of a monster junior season? It certainly looked that way. In those first three weeks, his yard-per-route run average was 2.67. He was once again used exclusively on the outside, running 87.9% of his routes out wide.
Things finally totally clicked his senior season and maybe not surprisingly, it coincided with a slight change in how the team deployed him. In his first three seasons, he ran 83% of his routes out wide in every single season. Because of this, the number of routes he ran from the slot was never higher than 16.5%. Last year, his slot rate jumped to 35.0% and his out wide rate dropped to 55.9%. This adjustment drastically increased Mingo’s production.
He ended with 81 targets, 51 receptions, 861 yards, and 5 touchdowns. While he still had an aDot of 14.5 yards, which was the highest in his four seasons, Mingo was much more effective with these targets. He finished with a 2.14 yard-per-route-run average, which ranked 57th among 113 qualifying receivers with at least 80 targets.
— NFL (@NFL) April 28, 2023
He displayed after-the-catch skills that he had not yet shown. He finished with 7.3 yards after the catch per attempt, which ranked 10th among the sample above. He also finished with his best target share of his four years at 23.8%. He had not before been above 16%. When draft season rolled around, many analysts wondered if the Rebels coaching staff had used Mingo incorrectly. Lance Zierlein, lead NFL draft analyst for NFL.com had this to say about Mingo,
“Big, strong slot receiver possessing the mental and physical toughness to outperform his speed limitations. The career production is nothing special, but it’s clear he’s put time and effort into his craft. He runs crisp, well-paced routes and ramps up his focus when it’s time to go get the football. A lack of separation burst and long speed could make for more contested catches, but he has the body type and willingness for that work. Mingo can get tough yards after the catch and is an above-average blocker. He has the skill level and demeanor to become a starting slot receiver for teams using 11 personnel (three WRs) as their base offense.”
Zierlein wasn’t the only analyst who felt Mingo’s skillset was best suited for a role as a team’s primary slot receiver. Reception Perception’s Matt Harmon profiled Mingo as a big slot receiver as well.
New Panthers WR Jonathan Mingo in #ReceptionPerception.
– Success rates, routes near identical to St. Brown
– 75% contested catch rate
– Went down on first contact on just 44% of “in space” plays
— Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) April 28, 2023
There’s a lot to be excited about in Carolina. They hired Super Bowl-winning head coach Frank Reich and traded up to the No. 1 overall spot in order to draft Bryce Young, quarterback of Alabama. These are two massive additions and create a lot of optimism for what the Panthers’ offense could look like in 2023.
The Panthers have several players they’ll be replacing from their 2022 team. Those include D.J. Moore and Christian McCaffrey who combined for 188 targets, 109 receptions, 1,371 yards, and 9 touchdowns. The team also opted to sign Adam Thielen and D.J. Chark, and tight end Hayden Hurst. While these veterans will give the offense some reliability, none of them are good enough to fully stop Mingo from operating as the team’s No. 1 receiver if that’s something he can earn.
Frank Reich’s vision for WR Jonathan Mingo
Shallows. Crossers. Vertical routes. Ball skills.
Repeated multiple times how great of a fit he is in their offensive plan. pic.twitter.com/vDFlwc450R
— Josh Norris (@JoshNorris) April 29, 2023
Mingo looks best suited to be used like Deebo Samuel. From his build to his strengths, there are a lot of similarities between these two players. If Mingo is used in this type of big slot role where the Panthers make a conscious effort to get the ball in his hands early and often, some of his tackle-breaking skills could be used to their fullest extent. His elite athleticism could allow him to become a true offensive weapon with the ball in his hands and he doesn’t lack for anything athletically.
Jonathan Mingo is a WR prospect in the 2023 draft class. He scored a 9.86 #RAS out of a possible 10.00. This ranked 43 out of 3048 WR from 1987 to 2023. https://t.co/LbCjhpXIIB pic.twitter.com/HpxaYlQy9B
— Kent Lee Platte (@MathBomb) April 15, 2023
While fantasy managers should be expecting Mingo to start off slow with Thielen and Chark operating as the two’s starting receivers due to their veteran status, it shouldn’t be surprising if he puts together a big second half of the season and becomes a player that fantasy managers want to have in their lineup. Mingo currently looks like one of their best offensive weapons.
He currently is being drafted as the WR58 with an ADP of 127.3, which would require a 10th-round pick. Fantasy managers should be all over Mingo at this price. He’s an elite athlete, with a historically good coach, an elite rookie quarterback prospect, and a very non-imposing group of pass-catchers ahead of him. Mingo offers a lot of upside for his current price tag.
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