NFL Draft 2017

VT NFL Draft Profiles: RB Joe Mixon

Joe Mixon | RB, Oklahoma

Measurements

Height: 6’0″

Weight: 228

Hands: 10 1/4″

Wingspan: 34.5″

Projected Round

1st Round – 4th Round

Pros

Patience/Vision: There’s a reason Bleacher Report’s Lead NFL Draft Analyst compared Mixon to LeVeon Bell:

Bell might boast the best patience and vision as a runner in the NFL. Mixon’s film as a Sooner showed similar traits. In the clip below, he waits for a slight crease to open up and then uses his one-cut style to burst through the hole en route to a touchdown.

One of his longest runs (above) in the 2016 season started with his patience. The stretch run takes awhile to develop, but Mixon waits for a tiny crease created by right tackle Bobby Evans (No. 71) before cutting upfield and making a couple of defenders miss.

Even in short-yardage situations, Mixon’s patience is evident.

The above clip shows what looks like a broken play for the first few seconds. Mixon’s patience gets the defense leaning to the outside, opening up a hole that allows Mixon to get downhill. Six points.

Athleticism: Mixon’s got it all regarding athleticism — speed, size, quickness, acceleration, agility, and strength. His 4.43 40-yard dash is right on par with Adrian Peterson’s mark from 2007, but Mixon has about 10 pounds on Peterson, making the time even more impressive.

The side-to-side agility was evident in Mixon’s 2016 outing again Texas Tech, where on one touchdown he made three defenders miss in tight spaces with quick lateral cuts. Mixon’s cuts are so effortless and fluid that it’s as if he isn’t even breaking stride.

Mixon’s acceleration and strength are also more than NFL-caliber, as evidenced by this long touchdown run against Baylor.

Mixon gets downhill quickly and sheds a tackle from a defensive lineman. He then switches gears and makes No. 6 look bad for taking an ill-advised angle. Most running backs that find a job in the NFL have more of a niche rushing style. Some guys win with strength and power. Some guys win with quickness and speed. Mixon legitimately has both in his arsenal.

Pass Protection: Mixon isn’t a perfect pass blocker, but he’s more than capable. He can recognize where pressure is coming from and hold his own against athletes much bigger and stronger than he is, and that’s all you ask of a running back in pass protection.

He swiftly recognizes blitzes from a play-action fake, a skill that has been missing from the Vikings backfield for a long time.

In the second clip, Mixon quickly gets himself in a stance after the play-fake to engage with the pass rusher. His work in protection led to many downfield completions for the Sooners in 2016.

Receiving: There’s a reason Bell and David Johnson are considered the top two running backs in the NFL. In addition to their excellent rushing skills, they each excel as receivers. Mixon is cut from the same cloth.

He boasts excellent route running and reliable hands, both of which made him a versatile weapon in the Oklahoma offense. While he spent most of his time lined up in the backfield, Mixon frequently lined up outside and exploited mismatches against linebackers and safeties.

And of course, Mixon can make defenders look silly when running routes out of the backfield as well. It’s not crazy at all to say Mixon is the best running back in this draft class regarding on-field traits and production. If it weren’t for such a severe con, he would be a first-round pick.

Cons

Ball Security: This isn’t really a weakness — it’s just not a strength. Mixon coughed it up six times in two seasons with the Sooners, including three times in one game against Texas in 2016. His upright style and his tendency to occassionally hold the ball loosely make him susceptible to fumbles more often than plenty of other running backs in this draft class.

Off-field baggage: Mixon only has one con, but it’s big enough for many teams to drop him completely off their draft boards. A video from 2014 surfaced in December of Mixon punching Amelia Molitor in the face. Molitor sustained a broken jaw and eye socket, and Mixon was charged with a misdemeanor. Mixon has completed 100 hours of community service and counseling since the incident. Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops also suspended Mixon for the entire 2014 season.

Mixon’s draft stock took a major plummet once video evidence of the incident was spotted and released to the public. NFL front offices and scouts are left questioning not only Mixon’s character but also the significant PR hit that he will inevitably bring with him.

Vikings Slant

Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has put an emphasis on acquiring players with few character flaws since he arrived in Minnesota. On the flip side of that argument, Zimmer spent ample time coaching players with questionable history during his tenure in Cincinnati.

Several reliable sources have associated Zimmer with Mixon. The two were photographed leaving the Oklahoma pro day side by side on March 8.

Darren Wolfson of KSTP in the Twin Cities has reported that Zimmer “really likes” Mixon.

Mixon is maybe this draft’s biggest wild card. There’s a good chance he’s still available at 48th overall, where the Vikings make their first selection. There’s also a chance the Vikings will need to trade up for him.

It’s not like the Vikings couldn’t use Mixon. Minnesota’s rushing attack was the worst in the NFL in 2016 on a yards-per-carry basis. Mixon’s first-round talent would instantly upgrade an offense that needs a spark in the run game.

The Vikings are also in a unique situation wth their running backs. Newly-acquired running back Latavius Murray and fourth-year athletic freak Jerick McKinnon will both essentially be in “contract years” in 2017. It appears as if a running back in this draft class is in Rick Spielman’s plans. Could that be Mixon?

My Take

I usually don’t do this for draft profiles. But this draft profile is a little bit different. Mixon’s off-field incident has polarized football fans, especially since the video was released.

Let’s get one thing straight. If you want the Vikings to draft Mixon, you’re not a better person than anyone else. And if you want the Vikings to avoid Mixon entirely, that doesn’t make you a better person than someone else.

Mixon indeed messed up. Punching a woman is straight up intolerable, and nobody would defend what he did in any way. But there will be a team that gives Mixon a second chance, and it might be the Vikings.

Zimmer has repeatedly put a high emphasis on character when acquiring players since he took over in 2014. His admiration for Mixon should alleviate some of the uneasiness in the Vikings fanbase.

In my opinion, Mixon is the best running back prospect in this class, and it might not be close. The Vikings should strongly consider bringing him on board if he’s available at 48th overall come April 28.

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Drew Mahowald

Drew Mahowald is a student at Saint John's University (MN) majoring in Media Communication. He proclaims himself as the number one fan of Little Caesars pizza and Jim Kleinsasser. The first Vikings game Drew remembers watching is the 41-0 blowout loss to the Giants in the 2000 NFC Championship game. Despite this, he has developed a deep knowledge and passion for the team. When he isn't writing about the Vikings, Drew is usually out golfing with friends or eating Little Caesar's pizza. You can find more of his work at CanisHoopus.com, the SB Nation affiliate Minnesota Timberwolves blog, or on Twitter at @DrewMahowald.

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6 Comments

  1. People will love him or hate him, it’s all up to Mixon himself! If he performs well and behave, the fans will be fans and eventually will see past HIS past!!

  2. I don’t want him. I know he’s a talented back, but the Vikings already have Murray and McKinnon; there’s no reason to make a risky pick on another RB. And if you ask me, what he did wasn’t just a young guy making a stupid mistake, as some people have said. He punched a woman with everything he had and injured her. You’d have to be a pretty bad person to do that, regardless of the circumstances. I’m sure I could get on board if the Vikings do draft him, but it would be a very disappointing draft day for me

  3. I’ve watched the video several times and yes, he shouldn’t have lashed out the way he did. It was an ugly incident, and one he should feel completely ashamed of regardless if the girl shoved and struck out first. However, it’s clear that his ‘punch’ was more of a powerful swipe, and the girl’s injuries were caused more by hitting the table on her way down. If he had connected with a punch she would have gone backwards before going down. It also bears this in the charges brought against Mixon – both publically and privately. Did he make a seriously bad life choice – of course he did. Should he be able to move on with his life – I think so.

  4. A back at 48? Is this putting the cart before the horse? With such O-line issues do we have that luxury? If we cant block anybody it dsnt matter who is back there. On the other hand, I wanted “troubled” Marcus Peters over good guy Waynes.
    In the court of public opinion is the community ready to take on a “Ray Rice” after parting ways with bad optics of a child beater?

  5. Things are eerily quiet about Mixon now. I’m guessing some bad commentary will resurface just before the draft, but it will simply be posturing/smokescreening. Mixon will be long gone before the Vikes pick, and we will not move up to get him.

  6. Yes, the Vikings should draft an Oklahoma RB to replace AP…Samaje Perine! Watch his tape. The dude is Beast Mode with more wiggle. Teams flat out give up on wanting to tackle him. In a year filled with stud RBs, I believe he will be the best pro of the bunch.

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