When you see a WR make a move up from the C-USA to the Power Five, you can’t help but notice. 2023 NFL Draft WR prospect Mitchell Tinsley made that leap in the 2022 offseason, moving from Western Kentucky to Penn State. With the Nittany Lions, he’ll be under brighter lights, and Tinsley’s NFL draft scouting report will be the subject of greater scrutiny. Does Tinsley have what it takes to hear his name called next April?
Mitchell Tinsley NFL draft profile
There’s an alternate reality where Tinsley isn’t playing football right now. It was a sport he questioned his commitment to early on. But now, there’s no denying just how much energy and appreciation Tinsley holds for the opportunity in front of him. Wearing No. 5 at Penn State, a year after Jahan Dotson’s departure — it’s a lot of pressure. But it’s pressure Tinsley has been preparing for all his life. He’s ready for it now.
It took Tinsley time to find himself and find his stride along his football journey. He always flashed talent, however. In high school, Tinsley was a long jumper in track, whose athletic skills translated well on the football field. As a senior, he caught 19 passes for 350 yards and six touchdowns and earned an audition at Hutchinson Community College in 2018.
At Hutchinson CC, Tinsley kept growing, amassing 47 catches for 556 yards and four scores in 2019. That production earned him another step up the ladder — this time to Western Kentucky. With the Hilltoppers, his ascent steepened. And in 2021, he dominated alongside Jerreth Sterns with 87 catches, 1,402 yards, and 14 touchdowns.
As soon as Tinsley entered the transfer portal, he was recruited heavily by Penn State, with QB Sean Clifford leading the charge. Now, he’s joining up with the Nittany Lions — not only aiming to fill the void left by Dotson but to solidify his standing in the 2023 NFL Draft.
- Position: Wide Receiver
- School: Penn State
- Current Year: Redshirt Senior
- Height/Weight: 6’1″, 206 pounds
Mitchell Tinsley scouting report
Tinsley’s entire collegiate career has been one long climb up one big ladder. Now, he’s almost at the top. But the journey doesn’t stop here. Does he have the tools to claim a role in the NFL?
At 6’1″, 206 pounds, Tinsley sports a dense, compact frame with above-average length. He also brings good open-field burst and long-track acceleration when he has a runway.
Additionally, the Penn State WR showcases measured short-area twitch and plays with amped-up energy in his movement. He has good throttle control, as he’s able to decelerate and gear back up with impressive freedom on stop-and-go’s. Moreover, Tinsley showcases above-average long speed when he’s able to open his strides in space.
As a pass catcher, Tinsley has very smooth body control when adjusting and contorting for throws. The Penn State WR exudes a great sense of timing and can snare passes outside his frame with his length. Tinsley also possesses good vertical leaping ability, as well as reliable ball-tracking ability.
At the catch point, Tinsley uses good hand technique outside of his frame when catching passes, actively guiding in the ball with the diamond technique. His hand/eye coordination is strong and routinely shows up in tight situations. The Penn State WR has flashed the ability to haul in passes amidst impending contact, even over the middle of the field.
In the route-running phase, Tinsley has some modest appeal. The Penn State WR has fast feet and can actively chop them ahead of route stems. With that foot speed, he can generate displacement with swift releases, pressing outside and then breaking in.
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Tinsley eats up cushion very well and uses abrupt footwork to get DBs off-balance. He also flashes good curvilinear acceleration on rounded breaks and can throttle up with efficiency through routes. Ahead of route breaks, he does a good job pressing upfield and keeps his head forward up to the stem, effectively using his eyes to disguise intent.
Tinsley’s frame, with its mass and above-average length, translates well when physicality is required. The Penn State WR has shown he can use subtle swipes to compound separation against press. And with his fairly dense frame, he can withstand contact over the middle of the field. He’s able to absorb hits and recollect his feet, setting up RAC opportunities.
Perhaps most appealing in Tinsley’s scouting report is his RAC potential. He’s a strong, physical runner after the catch who actively seeks to employ stiff-arms against opponents. He keeps his legs churning, can shake off arm tackles with his frame density, and keeps himself clean with proactive physicality.
Finally, Tinsley brings above-average utility as a blocker. The Penn State WR uses his fast feet to square up DBs. Moreover, he knows how to use DB leverage against them and has shown he can latch and drive downfield.
Tinsley’s areas for improvement
Tinsley’s profile is surprisingly solid and well-rounded. The questions, however, mainly derive from his ceiling. Tinsley’s height and length combination is far from elite and not a source of mismatches. He also doesn’t have an elite explosive skill set.
Tinsley doesn’t cover much ground on initial acceleration out of breaks. He also lacks the explosiveness to consistently get a step on DBs after acquiring displacement. The Penn State WR doesn’t have the elite burst to aid his contact balance and manipulate tackling angles consistently, and he visibly lacks breakaway speed. He can be run down in space by faster defenders.
Tinsley’s lack of elite explosiveness and speed may limit his ceiling at the NFL level, and there are other issues to note beyond that. The Penn State WR sometimes struggles to work through contact at the catch point and is prone to focus drops, especially against tighter coverage. At times, he’ll try to bring the ball into his torso too early, causing inconsistency when securing throws.
As a route runner, Tinsley can keep perfecting his craft as well. He doesn’t always sink his hips as much as desired at breaks and doesn’t always accelerate well out of sharp breaks. Tinsley has room to further expand his route tree and play to his capacity more consistently.
While Tinsley’s physical makeup grants him good natural ability as a blocker, he can similarly seek greater consistency here. Tinsley doesn’t always fully extend as a blocker and can hesitantly approach the contact point, giving up space. He also sometimes lacks proper leverage as a blocker, and his upper and lower body aren’t always in sync.
Current draft projection for Penn State WR Mitchell Tinsley
Even with his strong 2021 tape, Tinsley grades out as a mid-to-late Day 3 prospect in the 2023 NFL Draft WR class. That said, there’s reason to believe that, from the Day 3 range, Tinsley can stick around in the NFL as a strong fourth or fifth receiving option.
Tinsley’s athletic upside is the main deflating factor in his projection. He’s not a bad athlete, and in fact, he does show above-average explosiveness on film. But he might not have the elite level of burst, speed, and athleticism to maintain a starting role at the NFL level.
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But in the words of his new head coach James Franklin, and as his production implies, Tinsley is dependable. He has a strong frame and great competitive toughness. He has reliable natural receiving ability and has some of the necessary building blocks as a route runner. And after the catch, his frame density and contact balance translate very well.
Especially for teams that prefer their WRs over 200 pounds, Tinsley could be a great depth addition later on in the 2023 NFL Draft. While he doesn’t have the elite athletic upside to command an early selection, he’s a well-rounded, sturdy receiving threat with some three-level appeal. Tinsley could be a valuable rotational weapon for NFL teams.
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