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A closer look at Mitchell Tinsley

Another UDFA trying to make the roster

Washington Commanders v Cleveland Browns Photo by Nick Cammett/Getty Images

With final roster cut downs only a couple of weeks away, Washington is looking at some difficult decisions in a number of position groups. One of those groups is the wide receiver corps. In just a few short years, Washington’s wide receiver group has gone from one of the weakest in the league (in 2020, Cam and Steven Sims were WRs 2 and 3) to one of the strongest in the league, with Terry McLaurin hitting his prime, Jahan Dotson looking like he’s ready to take his game to another level, and Curtis Samuel likely to settle into a role as an “offensive weapon” in Eric Bieniemy’s offense.

Behind those three, third-year WR Dyami Brown appears more comfortable than in pre-seasons past, now reunited with his college play caller from UNC. My own suspicion is that recent free agent acquisition Byron Pringle is likely WR5 in the current group, but one undrafted free agent is - by several accounts - contending for a backend roster spot in that same range as well: Mitchell Tinsley.

Tinsley has taken a circuitous route to get to his current spot, having first spent two years at Hutchinson Community College, then getting a scholarship to Western Kentucky, and spending two years there, before finishing up his college career at Penn State last season.

Receiving & Rushing Table
Receiving Rushing Scrimmage
Year School Conf Class Pos G Rec Yds Avg TD Att Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
*2020 Western Kentucky CUSA JR WR 12 43 377 8.8 4 1 5 5.0 0 44 382 8.7 4
*2021 Western Kentucky CUSA JR WR 14 87 1402 16.1 14 0 0 0 87 1402 16.1 14
*2022 Penn State Big Ten 13 51 577 11.3 5 0 0 0 51 577 11.3 5
Career Overall 181 2356 13.0 23 1 5 5.0 0 182 2361 13.0 23
Western Kentucky 130 1779 13.7 18 1 5 5.0 0 131 1784 13.6 18
Penn State 51 577 11.3 5 0 0 0 51 577 11.3 5
Provided by CFB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 8/17/2023.

Tinsley had a stand out performance in the East-West Shrine Game, but would ultimately be passed over in the draft.

The folks at Penn State’s SBNation blog, “Black Shoe Diaries,” described Tinsley in the following manner:

Tinsley does not have the top-notch height and speed that would make him a high draft pick, but he does about everything else well when he steps on the field. Tinsley is a slippery pass catcher who knows how to get open and has excellent hands. He could find a long NFL career as a valuable possession receiver who knows how to move the chains and be a dependable target. He has great tracking skills with the ball in the air, and does well in traffic. Tinsley is also a tenacious blocker, helping spring several long touchdown runs by maintaining his blocks through the whistle. Considering he only started playing football during his senior year of high school, he still has room to grow as a player.

Mark Wogenrich of All Penn State was asked about Tinsley’s projection to the pros, and he compared the rookie to both Jahan Dotson and Hunter Renfrow - a frequent comp - as a player with great hands who runs precise routes, and who could be a possession receiver in the NFL for years. While not a deep threat, Tinsley can be the kind of receiver who is a quarterback’s security blanket on third down underneath across the middle.

Pro Football Network’s Justin Melo was impressed enough by Tinsley’s college performance that, in May, he wrote a piece entitled: “Why Mitchell Tinsley Can Make Commanders Roster As UDFA.” His case begins:

Tinsley is a big-time run-after-catch threat in the open field. Bieniemy often stressed opposing defenses by placing the ball in the hands of his elite athletes throughout a stint as Andy Reid’s offensive coordinator with the Kansas City Chiefs. Tinsley is capable of making similar dynamic plays.

Tinsley is an outstanding route-runner in all phases. He’s a technically-gifted receiver that places emphasis on his fundamentals. Bieniemy will appreciate Tinsley’s football IQ and attention to detail.

He then proceeds to describe Tinsley’s college production, and the fact that Washington paid him $135,000 in base salary and signing bonus, a substantial sum for an undrafted free agent, signaling the team’s interest in him (as a point of comparison, Kaz Allen’s deal was $105,000).

Melo finalizes his case by describing Tinsley’s athleticism and special teams prowess:

The 6-foot, 199-pound Tinsley put forth some impressive numbers between the NFL Scouting Combine and Penn State’s Pro Day. Tinsley’s best result was an elite 6.70 in the 3-cone. A 4.21 short shuttle was also a favorable result. Tinsley’s 40-yard dash time of 4.60 left plenty to be desired, but it was somewhat rescued by a 1.57 10-yard split. Athletic comparisons include Green Bay Packers rookie success story Romeo Doubs, per MockDraftable.

Special teams is often the quickest pathway for an undrafted rookie to prove he belongs on the field. Tinsley returned punts at both Western Kentucky and Penn State. He also played on coverage units. A strong special teams background increases Tinsley’s chances of impressing Washington’s coaching staff.

Tinsley made some nice plays against Browns in the first pre-season game, and his effort throughout training camp has drawn a lot of positive attention.

The final two pre-season games will be critical for Tinsley - as well as at least a few others jockeying for the final wide receiver roster spots on the team - but he seems to be making the most of his opportunities so far. What do you think, will Tinsley be a contributor on this year’s roster?


Do you think Mitchell Tinsley will make the final 53-man roster this year?

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