Quinyon Mitchell NFL Mock Draft scouting report: Why Toledo CB is drawing Sauce Gardner, Devon Witherspoon comparisons

Could the NFL’s next great cornerback come from the University of Toledo?

First-round cornerbacks have experienced real success in recent years, from Sauce Gardner and Patrick Surtain to Devon Witherspoon and even Derek Stingley. In a league built around passing, certain defensive backs make a massive difference. Quinyon Mitchell could be the next.

Mitchell might have flown under the radar during the 2023 season, but he’s been among the most popular defensive players throughout the pre-draft process. A rare premier small-school prospect in the transfer portal era, Mitchell is no longer being overlooked by teams with a need in the secondary.

Here’s a look at what makes Mitchell such an intriguing prospect and which current NFL cornerbacks he most closely resembles.

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Quinyon Mitchell NFL Draft scouting report

Speed is the basis of Mitchell’s game, as he ran a blazing 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, but he’s much more than just a fast defensive back.

Mitchell was a ballhawk at Toledo with five interceptions in his junior season, and his reaction time is what you want out of a No. 1 cornerback. He excels in coverage, and his athleticism is among the most impressive of any cornerback in this draft.

Open-space tackling is one area of vulnerability for Mitchell. His work as a ballhawk could also be a concern for NFL teams. Mitchell has strong ball skills, but he can get overaggressive and get burned while searching for a big play.

Just like Trevon Diggs put up gaudy interception numbers but suffered in other areas early in his career, it could just take some time for Mitchell to level himself out and know precisely when to be content with a pass breakup. 

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Quinyon Mitchell stats

Season Games INT Pass deflections Tackles
2020 4 0 0 7
2021 12 0 8 34
2022 14 5 19 41
2023 13 1 18 41
Career 43 6 45 123

Quinyon Mitchell NFL comparison

Sauce Gardner

Mitchell proved in 2023 that he can be successful even without a multitude of interceptions. Sauce Gardner has done the same at the NFL level despite recording three interceptions in each of his three seasons in Cincinnati. 

Mitchell is faster than Gardner, but Gardner’s 4.41-second 40-yard dash was relatively blazing considering he’s 6-2. Mitchell likewise has excellent speed for his size, and both he and Gardner consistently win in coverage. 

The comparison between Mitchell and Gardner is more than just the result of both being smaller-school products (though Gardner did reach the College Football Playoff at Cincinnati). At the same time, it’s tough to ignore that these are two defensive backs who consistently dominated inferior competition.

Gardner quickly proved concerns about level of competition were pointless when he reached the NFL, perhaps paving a path for Mitchell to be taken higher on Thursday than he otherwise would’ve been. 

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Devon Witherspoon

Mitchell fits the size profile of Seattle’s Devon Witherspoon, as both stand at 6-0 while Mitchell is only about 10 pounds heavier. Like Witherspoon, Mitchell’s athleticism pops. Witherspoon entered the NFL with a fairly small frame, unusual for a cornerback drafted by the Seahawks, but Seattle bet on his athleticism and coverage skills and appears to have gotten it right.

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Witherspoon was a playmaker in year one while still remaining valuable in coverage. While there is still plenty of room for development for Witherspoon, that’s the goal for Mitchell.

Ideally, the team that drafts Mitchell will get a defender with big-play potential who can consistently win in coverage. The speed advantage over Witherspoon, who ran a 4.42-second 40-yard dash, gives Mitchell even more of a leg up on the competition. 

Quinyon Mitchell NFL mock draft

SN mock draft projection: No. 15, Colts

SN’s Vinnie Iyer projects the Colts to select Mitchell with the No. 15 overall pick in his updated 3-round mock draft.

The Colts got a bounce-back year out of nickel corner Kenny Moore in 2023 and have a rising piece in JuJu Brents, but Brents is a tall, lanky corner who doesn’t have burning speed by any means. Mitchell would be an ideal complement to Brents as a smaller, speedier corner who has all of the tools to become a long-term starter in Indianapolis’ secondary.

The Colts had a hard time containing the Texans’ and Jaguars’ passing games in 2023, so the cornerback position remains a major area of need with both C.J. Stroud and Trevor Lawrence staying right in the AFC South. 

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