Every year when it gets to the off-season, there’s always a player or two that I come across and think, “I’d like to add him, but he’s getting too old.”
Somehow, these players have drunk some magical elixir, and time continued to move while they didn’t age at all. That or they came into the league at a young age, and I didn’t realize it. It’s almost always the latter.
Funny enough, I feel like I’ve been saying the same thing about Joe Mixon for three years now. Even though he’s only been in the league for four years, I always think Mixon’s been around for a long time. It also feels like he’s never truly broken out.
Well, I wanted to dig a little deeper into Mixon. What’s worked in his career and hasn’t? Is he worth his current ADP value? Should you be trying to trade him or hold onto him?
The Story So Far…
The Cincinnati Bengals drafted Mixon in 2017 at the age of 20. Now, Mixon will turn 25 later this month. While that means he isn’t a spring chicken, Mixon’s still young enough to have several prime fantasy seasons ahead of him.
On top of this, Mixon’s workload has been relatively light compared to many workhorse running backs. Sure, Mixon has had some injury history. However, compare Mixon’s rushing attempts to a few other top running backs of recent memory.
One could argue that this shows the Bengals aren’t as committed to Mixon as a rusher as others, but the Bengals are 19-44-1 in Mixon’s tenure with the team.
The last three seasons’ defense has never been better than 22nd in points surrendered and 26th in yards given up.
Mixon’s offense is constantly forced to throw the ball. Until recently, that passing offense wasn’t terrifying opposing defenses enough to give Mixon some decent running lanes. He’s been the Bengals’ No. 1 offensive threat all four years, and defenses are always aware of where he is.
A Heap of Talent Surrounding Mixon
Mixon is heading into year two with QB Joe Burrow, who had a successful rookie campaign before a knee injury ended his season early. Also, the Bengals took one of the top wide receiver prospects in the 2021 draft in Ja’Marr Chase. Chase joins Tee Higgins and Tyler Boyd in a very young and talented wide receiver room.
Mixon’s never had so much talent around him. It can only help his cause this coming season. Stacking the box against Mixon is less of an option as those receivers will break opponents downfield. That will open up plenty of receiving opportunities for him.
Passing Opportunity Incoming
In Mixon’s 50 career games, he has 160 targets, and 129 receptions to his name. While this isn’t a PPR savior, Mixon has shown the ability to succeed in the passing game so far in his career. Thus, he should only see an increase in receiving production as time goes on.
Mixon’s 2020 receiving numbers with Burrow under center are encouraging. In just six games, he had 21 catches on 26 targets. That’s 3.5 catches per game, 4.33 targets a game, and projects out to 56 catches and 69 targets over 16 games. That would have been career highs in both categories.
Of course, this wouldn’t be a question of whether to trade or hold if there weren’t some negative aspects to Mixon.
He’s had a few different injuries in his time in the NFL. Mixon missed two games his rookie year, two his sophomore season, and ten games last year.
While these particular injuries don’t necessarily lead to a trend of missed time, it is noteworthy that he’s only played one entire season in his four-year career.
Mixon’s yards per carry numbers don’t pop off the page, either. In 2020, Mixon rushed for only 3.6 yards per carry in his six games. In case you were curious, that’s 42nd among running backs.
While this was the lowest output of his career, I’m not sure it will continue. Cincinnati had a horrific offensive line that the free-agent signing of tackle Riley Reiff has bolstered. Additionally, Mixon hasn’t always underperformed in this category. In 2018, he was the 11th best running back in yards per carry with an impressive 4.9 average.
It’s unlikely Reiff solves all those problems we saw on the Bengals offensive line, but he’s an improvement. With a solid passing attack and an improved line, Mixon should see some more daylight with the ball in his hands. However, be aware of the risk. He’s yet to show he can be a premier back with a lackluster squad around him.
Mixon is ranked as the RB11 in Dynasty Nerds SF/PPR rankings, making him a late RB1 in value. Generally, an RB1 of that stature will still be worth a couple of first-round picks at least.
You do have to ask yourself this question, though: do you think Mixon will finally break out with what the Bengals surrounded him with?
Mixon’s injury-shortened season left him at RB49 in 2020. He finished as RB13 in 2019 and RB9 in 2018 in half-point PPR. All of this while having a very ugly roster around him.
While Mixon’s still a gamble in many ways, he has been a very productive back without much help. The additions the Bengals have made the last two seasons will help.
Right now, if you’re not a Mixon owner, you may still be able to buy somewhat low on him. Owners that have rostered Mixon for years may be tired of waiting for the full breakout. Maybe you will find an owner willing to part with him for a Propose a trade consisting of a first and second-round pick. If you can get a deal like that, you should pull the trigger.
If you’re a Mixon owner, you should be holding. His value has not reached its peak. It’s worth the risk of hanging onto him, especially when he’s just now turning 25.
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