The junior finished last year on a high note, amassing 15 catches for 262 yards and two scores. That spike in production, combined with his natural talents, elevated the expectations for this year; expectations that he wasn’t living up to in the beginning of the season.
Through the first three games of the year, Mitchell had six catches for 98 yards, showing a lack of involvement in the offense and no discourse with star quarterback Justin Herbert.
That all changed when the Ducks faced Stanford and its vaunted defense.
Mitchell had one of the best receiving games in Oregon history, finishing with career-highs of 14 catches for 239 yards. He was unstoppable, showing off an array of movies combined with precise route running and strong hands.
He followed up that performance with 15 catches for 224 yards and two touchdowns in the next two games against Cal and Washington, two of the better pass defenses in country. His performance over that three-game span put to rest any sort of notion that Mitchell wasn’t one of the top wideouts in the Pac-12.
“Basically, the coordinators, and even Justin, weren't showing everything in the first three games," Mitchell said following the game against Stanford. "As a player like myself, it was definitely hard for the first three games, because I didn’t see the ball as much.”
“Coming into conference play, I knew they’d be coming for me more. I just wanted to put my mark on the game,” Mitchell added.
After a subpar performance last week, Mitchell needs another big game to show that he’s still on track for one of the best receiving seasons the Ducks have had in recent memory. On the season, he’s amassed 42 catches for 608 yards and three touchdowns, putting him on pace to finish with 1,000+ receiving yards on the season — something no Ducks has done since Byron Marshall finished with 1,003 yards in 2014.
"I knew that he was going to get open and ran a great route," Herbert said after Mitchell converted a key third down against Washington. "He's a guy that — shoot, just makes plays wherever he's on the field."
Listed at 6-foot-2, 189-pounds, the former four-star prospect isn’t a burner who takes the top of defenses. But he does show tremendous athleticism and body control, often able to out jump defensive backs and come down with the ball. He’s also a gifted runner with the ball in his hands, capable of making defenders miss and turning short gains into long ones.
Where he’s improved this year is in press coverage, showing the burst and physicality needed to get off the line of scrimmage and separate downfield against long and athletic corners.
"I don't think anybody can hold me in the country," Mitchell said. "I feel the first couple of plays you play DB on me, you realize I might not be known or as hyped as some other guys, but you understand I'm not the guy to press."
With how naturally gifted Mitchell is, and the performances he’s put up against top-tier competition, he could face a difficult decision at the end of the year. Leave for a shot at the pro’s or return and refine his skillset that could eventually make him a draft pick in the higher rounds.
"I think Dillon is a really special player," Oregon offensive coordinator Marcus Arroyo said.