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'The guy gets open:' What Colts OC Jim Bob Cooter sees in second-round wide receiver Adonai Mitchell

During his final season at Texas, Mitchell caught 55 passes – 11 of which were touchdowns. 

The Colts did plenty of homework on Texas wide receiver Adonai Mitchell before selecting him with the No. 52 overall pick in the 2024 NFL Draft last week.

They sat down with Mitchell at the NFL Combine – you can see a clip of Mitchell's interview with the Colts on the "Behind The Colts" episode in the video player above, or watch on YouTube – and sent a contingent to Texas' pro day that included wide receivers coach Reggie Wayne and offensive coordinator Jim Bob Cooter.

Through hours of film study and those two face-to-face meetings with Mitchell, Cooter came away believing the speedy 6-foot-3, 205 pound wide receiver could be an important piece to a Colts offense that's looking to get more explosive in 2024.

"He's dynamic. The guy gets open," Cooter said. "There are a lot of routes against tight coverage, against different types of coverage. Those guys at Texas do such a good job offensively – Sark (Steve Sarkisian) and all those guys. AD was put in a position to win some one-on-ones and he won a bunch of them. He won a bunch of big ones.

"Just the ability to separate, runs some routes, a lot of different sort of routes at different depths, get open, make big catches. Sometimes contested, but sometimes not. Just able to create separation and make big plays. He's an exciting guy to watch on film and we're excited to get him up here soon."

Mitchell caught 55 passes for 845 yards (15.4 yards/reception) with 11 touchdowns and only one drop in 2023. Twenty-four of those receptions went for 15 or more yards, and he was targeted on average 16.8 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, ninth-highest among starting Power Five receivers, per Pro Football Focus.

But what the Colts saw in Mitchell was someone who wasn't just fast – he ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in February – but someone who has the fluid movement skills and extra gear to separate from defensive backs at the top of his routes, allowing him to get open down the field.

"I think it is different than pure speed," Cooter said. "Just thinking back in my history and my past in this league, there are some receivers that can really run fast but they struggle to change direction. A lot of times in route running, changing direction at the top is key. AD sure has put some routes on tape where he is able to change direction – sort of be violent at the top and strong with his footwork, which I think makes it tough on a corner to cover you. When you are running fast and now all of a sudden, you hook that right, or hook that left, or you give him the left and the right. AD has shown the propensity to do some of that. He's got some cool things he's put on tape and we're excited to get him here."

Those traits showed in Mitchell catching seven passes that traveled at least 25 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, with three going for touchdowns. But Mitchell wasn't just a deep ball merchant – he did plenty of damage on shorter and intermediate throws, including three touchdowns over the middle of the field, per PFF.

If the Colts wind up using Mitchell as an X (boundary) receiver in their offense, he'll have to compete with the incumbent Alec Pierce there. The Colts haven't given up on Pierce, who was an ironman in 2023 (1,090 snaps, most among Colts skill position players) and, as general manager Chris Ballard pointed out earlier this offseason, kept a good attitude through a challenging second year in the NFL.

And Cooter sees a world where Mitchell and Pierce complement each other within the Colts' offense as they begin working together when OTAs start later in May.

"They do have some different strengths," Cooter said. "I think in this league as a receiving core, it's good to have guys with different strengths so you can utilize them differently. ... A lot of guys compare it to a basketball team. We think Alec and AD may have some of those ways they can complement each other, but shoot, we're going to go out to the field, let everybody get a bunch of reps and see what's best for the Colts. Whatever is best for the Colts is what we're going to do. Those guys are going to get their chance to go run a bunch of routes, compete and try and win against our DBs, a bunch of different coverage looks and see how things go and see what we can do to make our 2024 Colts offense the best we can make it."

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