Second-year Elks’ receiver Dillon Mitchell sets goal of 2,000 yards in 2023

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The Edmonton Elks spent lavishly to upgrade their corps of pass catchers this offseason, bringing in thousand-yard receivers Eugene Lewis and Steven Dunbar Jr. However, one of the team’s returning players believes that vaunted receiving milestone is too small by half.

Second-year receiver Dillon Mitchell, who joined the Elks mid-way through the 2022 season, has set his own mark for success at double what his new teammates have accomplished.

“I’ve told a couple of coaches this year that my goals are set high. If I reach 2K, that’ll be something I’ll be happy with,” Mitchell recently revealed in an interview with Steven Sandor of the Canadian Press.

“My goal is to have 2,000 yards this season. I’m not sure what the record is, but I want to have a dominant season. I’ve always held high expectations for myself. I definitely feel that now, being more of a leader in the Elks group, there’s a bigger weight on my shoulders to prove myself.”

The 26-year-old made his CFL debut in Week 11 of last season, seeing action in nine games. He caught 35 passes for 637 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie, finishing third on the team in receiving behind Kenny Lawler and Derel Walker — both of whom departed the club in free agency.

While Mitchell’s season totals were only good enough for 22nd in the CFL, his average of 70.8 yards per game played was amongst the league’s best. Projected over the course of a full 18-game schedule, the former seventh-round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings was on pace for 1,274 yards — which would have trailed only Winnipeg’s Dalton Schoen, B.C.’s Dominique Rhymes, and his new teammate Lewis, then with Montreal.

Additionally, his 18.2-yard average per catch was second only to Schoen among players with at least 20 receptions.

“It’s something I thrive in doing. I want to make the big plays,” Mitchell said of his ability to take the top off a defence. “I always want to do something that people have not seen before. I want to always keep the crowd entertained, that’s a big part of my game.”

“We are playing a game to entertain people, so being able to work on releases, work on getting open, to catch the ball, I feel the special ability that I have will definitely be shown this year.”

Nevertheless, there is a big difference between showing special ability and eclipsing 2,000 receiving yards. Just three players in CFL history have accomplished that feat — Terry Greer in 1983, Allen Pitts in 1994, and Derrell ‘Mookie’ Mitchell in 1998 — and no receiver has even passed the 1,800-yard threshold in over a decade.

Still, Mitchell has some experience setting receiving records in the past. As a junior for the University of Oregon Ducks in 2018, he set a program single-season record with 1,184 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns in 13 games.

The six-foot-one, 190-pound target has already flashed the same game-breaking ability early in his CFL career, earning an extension from the Elks to keep him with the team through 2025. Even with the talent they’ve added through free agency, the organization believes Mitchell will be a focal point in 2023.

“D-Mitch is in tremendous shape,” Elks head coach and general manager Chris Jones told the media. “You’ve seen him. He averaged 18 yards per catch last year, and we expect the same thing from him this year.”