As far as my talent scouting goes, the most decorated feather in my cap is my scouting breakdown of Todd Gurley II. When Gurley was in Georgia, I just had this absolute “awe-struck” feeling that I was seeing something once in a lifetime. As he reached the NFL, I would find myself consistently higher than consensus (even when consensus had him as the 1.01). This feeling of absolutely nailing the scouting process would give me major confidence in my eye for talent moving forward.
Two years after the 2015 Gurley draft class, I would find myself drooling over another RB with transcendent abilities. A stout player made like an Ezekiel Elliot clone and placed him in a downtrodden location that only a biased truther can praise. Well, look no further. Do you need a drum banged? I’m your man! The man that I would bang the drum harder than it’s ever been banged for. The man who would be recognized as the heart of the Cinncinati Bengals and seen as their captain… None other than Joe Mixon himself.
Mixon was born July 24, 1996. John and Alise Mixon would welcome their youngest of six children into the world in the town of Oakley, California. Growing up, Mixon went to school at Freedom High School and was a two-sport athlete. It would ultimately be football that Mixon would find his true calling. The starter for three seasons, he would receive significant praise and notable accolades during his time in High School.
In his junior year, Mixon would be named to the second team All-USA team by USA Today. In his senior season in 2014, he would be getting all the praise one can ask for. On the back of 1,704 rushing yards and 23 rushing touchdowns (info courtesy of Bengals.com), Mixon would be selected to compete in the US All-American Bowl. Graded out as a 5-Star prospect and the second-highest graded prospect overall from the state of California, Mixon had all the hype one can ask for as a high school product. The eyes of the college football landscape were fixated on Mixon. It was no shock to anybody when he received north of 40 collegiate scholarship offers. The 6’1” 220-pound running back was set to choose his college destination and embark on his next step in his career path.
In the end, the 19th highest graded prospect in the nation (the highest graded RB) would head to Norman, Oklahoma, to play for Bob Stoops and the Oklahoma Sooners. Before his freshman campaign would even liftoff, Mixon would be involved in a heinous incident. To this day, it would leave a nasty stain on his reputation. The altercation would lead to Mixon being charged with assault, the worst way to make himself known. He would be suspended for the entirety of his freshman season, the 2014 college football season.
In the stead of Mixon’s absence, Oklahoma would discover an eventual teammate of his at the NFL level, Samaje Perine. A very successful college career for Perine would make things difficult for Mixon. Perine would go on to be Oklahoma’s all-time leading rusher in only three seasons before turning pro. Mixon would have to wait for his moment to show the talent that had him so hyped coming out of high school. He needed a chance to prove he could be a three-down back. When the opportunity came, the lights may not have been brighter.
After only three carries against Kansas State in the 2016 season, Perine would suffer a leg strain that would sideline him for multiple weeks. Mixon would receive the keys to the Sooner backfield one week before what would be thought by many as the most explosive game of the past decade on offense. Oklahoma versus Texas Tech and Baker Mayfield versus Patrick Mahomes. The future NFL talent in this game was truly off the charts.
On 31 rushing attempts, Mixon would put up a staggering 263 yards on the ground and two rushing touchdowns along with four receptions for 114 receiving yards and three receiving touchdowns. The final score would be Oklahoma 66, Texas Tech 59. The talent of Mahomes would not be enough on this clear night in Norman, Oklahoma. Everybody in attendance and viewing at home would have a heightened appreciation for the true talents of Mixon. There would be no more denying the kid’s ability from Oakley, California. This performance would catapult him into the discussion to be one of the top running back draft picks of what would turn out to be arguably the most talented RB draft class of all time.
Mixon would be named to the All-Big 12 First Team after rushing for 1,274 yards and 1,812 yards from scrimmage. He showed true three-down potential when he served as the starter. After his junior season, Mixon would declare for the NFL draft. Ultimately all the talent and statistics wouldn’t matter to some teams. His disturbing past reportedly took him off many team’s draft boards. A team would have to take a chance and suffer the PR hit in hopes of getting a discount on one of the best RBs. Even though some believed Mixon was the best RB in the nation.
The Heart of Cincinnati
It is all too fitting that the same team that gave a second chance to both Adam “Pacman” Jones and Vontaze Burfict would also see the possible reward in the perceived gamble of drafting Mixon. He was drafted in the second round at pick 48 of the 2017 NFL Draft. Mixon would find himself part of a committee that included Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, and Rex Burkhead. A team in the middle of what seemed like a constant rebuild, Mixon’s rookie season would be rather disappointing for some. Unwavering confidence is sometimes the key, and it turns out Mixon may be the true epitome of this hard-headed approach. As once stated in the cinema classic “The Dark Knight” by Harvey Dent, “The night is darkest before the dawn.”
The second year would see Mixon breakthrough onto the fantasy landscape. Notching his first career 1,000 rushing campaign (1,168) along with eight touchdowns would raise Joe’s expectations moving forward. Finishing ninth in standard scoring and tenth in PPR scoring, Mixon’s backend RB1 season was his break into fantasy relevance. Truthers rejoice!
Was This His Peak Value?
In hindsight, the move was trading away Mixon in our Dynasty leagues after that year. You would have netted top value and ultimately would have avoided the bumps in the road that was around the corner. A garbage situation for Mixon would weigh down his extraordinary talents. A situation we see far too often. We, as fantasy players, chose to ignore the details that make a great fantasy running back. Instead, we saw the shiny value that Mixon provided. With the talent of Elliot, it will never matter if Mixon finds himself behind a bad offensive line and a down-trodden offense.
The top fantasy RB’s, time and time again, often find themselves in roles where they are the only guy, or there is just simply that much offensive production to spread around to all the weapons involved. There is no coincidence that Demarco Murray, Darren McFadden, and Alfred Morris all found success behind the Dallas offensive line. Sure, Elliot was the maxed-out potential that this Dallas offense could give us. Still, ultimately it will almost always be the situation that is more important than the RBs talent itself. All I can say is that Joe Mixon has never found himself behind one of the best offensive lines in the league and likely will never be. On the other hand, the team situation and offensive output could always improve.
How Can Mixon Build His Success?
Going into the 2019 season and on the heels of a backend RB1 season, Mixon investors were starting to expect a hefty output of fantasy points. Mixon was beginning to be drafted based on his potential ceiling, disregarding his situation. In 2019, Mixon’s statistic totals would see him totaling 1,137 rushing yards, five rushing touchdowns, 35 receptions, and three receiving touchdowns. Respectable numbers that had him finish as the RB10 in standard scoring and RB13 in PPR scoring. Not bad, but still not good enough by many’s standards. The talent still outweighed his potential fantasy output, and it was starting to weigh on investors. It turns out people may have been too greedy in so many ways. The following season would show that in the worst way possible.
2020 was when the boys became men if you wanted to back the Cincinnati running back. After only six games, Mixon suffered a mid-foot sprain. The injury ultimately ended his season when it seemed he was about to take that next step. Instead, a false narrative was being created; many began to see Mixon as injury-prone. Through four seasons in the NFL, it felt as though many began to lose faith in Mixon as an elite asset, whether through injury or his performance in general. Probably not the best time for those false beliefs to affect your draft stock. As I said earlier, “The night is darkest before the dawn.”
Now, if hindsight had us selling Mixon after his second season, then the “Big Brain” move was undoubtedly trading for him before the 2021 season for a discounted price. It was finally time for all the Mixon fantasy teams to reap the rewards. Healthy for every game aside from Week 18 due to Covid, Mixon would finish as the RB3 in standard scoring and the RB4 in PPR scoring. Not bad for an RB that many had all but given up on.
Fortune favors the bold, and those that put their money on Mixon were handsomely rewarded. His 2021 numbers would see him have 1,205 rushing yards, 13 rushing touchdowns, along with 42 receptions for 314 yards and five receiving touchdowns. There is no more doubting Mixon; that time has passed us by, now we need to know how we should value him in our dynasty leagues.
At 26 years old, by the time the 2022 season starts, Mixon is no longer that young kid that entered the league. Not your typical running back in terms of usage. In my opinion, we will still see 3-4 more great seasons from the Bengals captain. Many will disagree with this assessment, but don’t forget that Mixon was never once run into the ground. He has plenty of tread on those tires because the Bengals, possibly this was always the plan, but have taken great care of one of their top assets.
Although what I’m saying suggests we shouldn’t rush to trade him off, I genuinely believe there is a specific team build that should roster Mixon. If you are in the bottom half of your league, there is zero doubt in my mind you need to reach out to one of the several top contenders in your league. There are all but zero reasons to roster an RB this talented this far into his career. You can lose all value in the blind of an eye and gain zero momentum towards rebuilding your squad.
Contenders should be aiming to get any of these “doubted” running back greats that may have perceived doubts due to age/injuries (Ex: Christian McCaffrey, Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook) and riding them to a dynasty championship. Don’t play scared; play to win. The value of a top-end RB can not be stated enough. The top teams in fantasy repeatedly find themselves winning because they are making the right moves at the right time. This is Mixon’s time, and any team with aspirations of winning their leagues should be inquiring with the Mixon shareholder.
Where Mixon is Ranked
On the Dynasty Nerds DynastyGM tool, you can find my standard scoring Dynasty rankings, and you will see I have Mixon ranked as my RB5 and ninth overall. I can already see your eyes widen at how ridiculous that may sound. This is higher than consensus, and I will not shy away from my fandom. How I rank runningbacks in dynasty does need some context. In my opinion, when ranking RB’s in dynasty, we can only count on one or two seasons. Counting on anything more is just foolish. So why wouldn’t I be high on the man that just came off a career year and on a team that is ever-improving? This is all without mentioning he is locked under contract until 2024.
If I was looking to trade for Mixon in dynasty, I believe you are trading something like Aaron Jones, Braxton Berrios, and a 2022 second. If you want to trade for him straight up, I like trading Dalvin Cook or Kamara. They are great backs themselves and shouldn’t be undervalued. I believe Mixon has surpassed them in terms of being an asset for our teams and also as a contributor.
Now, if you are a downtrodden team that knows you need to rebuild and are looking to trade away Mixon and cash in, I also have some possible moves. I suggest trading Mixon away for Travis Ettiene and a 2023 first, possibly Mixon for back-to-back first-round rookie picks. The move is about rebuilding, so why not go for youth. Now, if you want to do something straight up, might I suggest sending Mixon for Jaylen Waddle before his rocket ship takes off into orbit. Regardless, do not think that Mixon is done being a fantasy juggernaut just as he reaches his potential. If anything, now is the time to be a fan
I want to thank everyone for reading my 20th article with DynastyNerds. I’ve had this planned for a while to do article 20 on my favorite player in the NFL, and I couldn’t be happier to continue to work for you, the NerdHerd. Thanks again, fam; now let’s get these dynasty championships and count this paper.
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