VT NFL Draft Profiles: RB Joe Mixon
Joe Mixon | RB, Oklahoma
Hands: 10 1/4″
1st Round – 4th Round
Patience/Vision: There’s a reason Bleacher Report’s Lead NFL Draft Analyst compared Mixon to LeVeon Bell:
FWIW: My Joe Mixon comparison is Le'Veon Bell.
— Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) March 8, 2017
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.
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 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.
— Brooke Pryor (@bepryor) March 8, 2017
Darren Wolfson of KSTP in the Twin Cities has reported that Zimmer “really likes” Mixon.
buzz is Zimmer really likes him.
— Darren Wolfson (@DWolfsonKSTP) March 22, 2017
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?
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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