One of the biggest questions in the 2017 NFL Draft has been answered.
With the 48th overall pick, the Cincinnati Bengals drafted Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon.
Some pundits had Mixon at the top of this year’s class of running backs but surfaced video of an off-the-field incident in 2014 where Mixon punched a female restaurant patron, breaking her jaw, caused him to slip out of the first round.
The incident also forced Mixon completely off the draft board of the defending Super Bowl champion New England Patriots.
Mixon was not invited to the NFL Combine in March. Twenty-four teams were present at his pro day in Norman, Oklahoma, but he met privately with the Bengals, Browns, Saints, and Lions the night before his workout.
“I know it wasn’t right. It’s never right,” Mixon said to a group of reporters after his session on the field.
The Bengals are now making waves in the draft, which is not what they are known to do. In the first round, they grabbed wide receiver John Ross with the ninth overall pick. In March, Ross ran the fastest 40-yard dash in NFL Combine history at 4.22 seconds.
Now, Cincinnati uses its second-round selection to take the most controversial player in the draft. It seems the Bengals were using their typical best-player-available approach to this pick.
The Bengals’ brain trust must have had Mixon at the top of their running back rankings. Especially since Cincinnati originally held the 41st overall pick in the draft and could’ve picked Florida State’s Dalvin Cook, another running back who slipped into the second round.
Instead, Cincinnati traded with the Vikings and moved back to 48. Minnesota used that pick to draft Cook, who many had going as high as the middle of the first round. The Vikings just lost Adrian Peterson to free agency but added 27-year-old Latavius Murray, formerly of the Raiders. It was the first time Cincinnati performed a draft-day trade since 2012 when they moved back to take Kevin Zeitler.
If you ask around the league, running back would not be one of the needs surrounding this team. Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard form a backfield tandem that has rushed for over 4,500 yards and 38 touchdowns over the last three years.
However, Hill has one year remaining on his contract and is coming off consecutive seasons averaging less than four yards per carry. That doesn’t mean Hill isn’t welcoming of any new backfield partners, though. He wasn’t phased when the Bengals were working out the top running backs in the class prior to the draft. Minutes after Anthony Munoz, the only Hall-of-Famer in team history, announced Mixon’s name to thousands of football fans in Philadelphia, he sent out this encouraging tweet.
Best backfield in the league yeah I said it
— Jeremy Hill (@JeremyHill33) April 29, 2017
In two seasons with the Sooners, Mixon ran for over 2,000 yards and 17 touchdowns, averaging nearly seven yards per carry. He excelled as a pass-catcher, too, tallying 65 catches for 894 yards and nine touchdowns. In 2016, Mixon averaged 194.3 all-purpose yards per game, second in the FBS.
Mixon capped off his collegiate career with 91 rushing yards and two touchdowns in Oklahoma’s 35-19 win over Auburn in the Sugar Bowl last January.
The pick adds more fuel to the controversy fire of this offseason. Bengals’ corner Adam Jones was arrested the day after the regular-season finale, telling a cop, “I hope you die tomorrow” and spitting on a jail nurse. The same week of the arrest, a video was released of his outburst while sitting in the back of a police cruiser. The video of the spitting incident was released in mid-March, which also showed Jones being detained by multiple officers.
Furthermore, these first two picks have not addressed any of the major holes the Bengals have. The two best members of the offensive line, guard Kevin Zeitler and tackle Andrew Whitworth, both found new homes during free agency. Another necessity is a complementary pass-rusher to Pro-Bowler Carlos Dunlap. The Bengals passed on edge rushers like Tennessee’s Derek Barnett and Missouri’s Charles Harris in the first round.
Nevertheless, it’s up for the Bengals to control Mixon, even though it doesn’t appear they run the tightest organization. Despite Jones’ troubled past, owner Mike Brown still pledged his support for the veteran defensive back.
State of the Offense
It’s likely the Bengals could lose a few fans and season-ticket holders because of this move. However, they’ve now added two of the top offensive threats this draft had to offer. Quarterback Andy Dalton and coordinator Ken Zampese now have plenty of weapons at their disposal. Cincinnati is now looking to get its offense back to what it was in 2015 when the Bengals jumped out to an 8-0 start and likely would’ve earned a first-round bye had Dalton not went down with a season-ending thumb injury.
Mixon becomes the 11th running back taken in the Marvin Lewis era. He’s only the fourth to be taken in the second round or higher, joining Hill, Giovani Bernard, and Chris Perry.