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Why Joe Mixon will repeat as a Top-5 RB in 2022

Mixon finished as a Top-5 RB last year but is being underrated yet again going into 2022. Here’s why he will finish Top-5 yet again.

Joe Mixon has been in the league for about five years and is one of the most underrated running backs. He has had three 1,000+ yard rushing seasons so far and is on one of the top offenses in the NFL. Mixon has spent his entire career on the Bengals and will be under contract with them through 2024.

How He Fared in 2021

Many people labeled Mixon as injury-prone after the 2020 season and faded him into 2021. Mixon proved all those people wrong, as 2021 was easily the best year of his career. He set career highs in rushing yards (1205), rushing touchdowns (13), and receiving yards (314). In 0.5 PPR, he finished as the overall RB3 and was the RB4 in fantasy points per game (16.7).

Compared to the other running backs:

  • Third in rushing yards
  • Fourth in scrimmage yards 
  • Fourth in rushing touchdowns
  • Fourth in total touchdowns

What makes these numbers even more impressive is remembering the situation he was playing in. Cincinnati had one of the worst offensive lines in the league. They were third in sacks allowed (55) and second in sack percentage (9%). Mixon finishing 2021 with over 1,200 rushing yards with this bottom-of-the-barrel offensive line is a tremendous feat.

Another thing to keep in mind is the Bengals offense as a whole. The trio of Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd make one of the best receiving corps in the entire NFL. Teams with a top-notch receiving corps tend to pass more as they focus more of their plays in the air rather than on the ground. For example, the Chiefs, Rams, Buccaneers, and Chargers had very talented receiving cores. All finished in the league’s bottom half in rushing attempts. Nevertheless, the Bengals value Mixon and keep him just as involved as their WR trio.

2022 Outlook

The Offensive Line

The Bengals have done an outstanding job this offseason bolstering up the O-line. They signed La’el Collins (right tackle), Ted Karras (center), and Alex Cappa (right guard), who should immediately enter the starting lineup. The revamped O-line will help this team have one of the best offenses in the league (which most would consider they ALREADY have). The run blocking for Mixon will be miles ahead of what it was last year. This year, Mixon should easily surpass the 1,205 rushing yards mark from 2021. He has a legitimate shot of leading the league in rushing yards. With the O-line improving the offense, Mixon should have more red zone opportunities this year, likely allowing him to surpass the 13 rushing touchdowns mark he set in 2021.

Why He Has the Edge Over His Competition

Being on a team with such a lethal passing attack benefits Mixon greatly compared to some of his competition for a Top-5 RB finish. Last year, teams didn’t stack the box (8+ defenders in the box) against Mixon as they did against other top RBs like Derrick Henry, Austin Ekeler, Dalvin Cook, Ezekiel Elliot, and Nick Chubb. Opposing defenses know what Mixon can do. They don’t want to risk leaving Chase or Higgins open, spreading the defenders around the field, and not committing fully to stopping the run. Mixon will continue to have an easier path to rack up yardage than some other top RBs in 2022.

Top-15 in Stacked Front Carry Rate (as per Fantasy Data):

  1. Cordarrelle Patterson (32.0%)
  2. Nick Chubb (28.1%)
  3. Saquon Barkley (24.7%)
  4. Derrick Henry (24.2%)
  5. Ezekiel Elliott (24.1%)
  6. Alexander Mattison (23.1%)
  7. Dalvin Cook (20.9%)
  8. Mike Davis (20.3%)
  9. Christian McCaffrey (20.2%)
  10. Austin Ekeler (19.9%)
  11. Devontae Booker (17.9%)
  12. Joe Mixon (17.8%)
  13. Najee Harris (16.9%)
  14. Tony Pollard (16.2%)
  15. Alvin Kamara (15.8%)

Of all the RBs listed above, only Ekeler and Henry averaged more 0.5 PPR fantasy points per game than Mixon in 2021. Henry is coming off a significant foot injury, so the Titans might try to lighten his workload to avoid more severe injuries (especially since they are a win-now team). The Chargers drafted Isaiah Spiller, who might start taking some opportunities away from Ekeler to ease the workload for their 27-year-old star running back. Henry and Ekeler are top-tier running backs, but they might see a dip in production next year. Mixon should be in for a solid improvement on an excellent 2021 campaign.

Between the revamped O-line and the lack of running into a stacked box (compared to most of the other top RBs), Mixon should have a clear path to finishing as a Top-5 running back in 2022 and could very well end up Top-3.

Dynasty Outlook

Mixon is turning 26 before the 2022 season starts but could be in for one of the best years of his career. Some might say that he is a sell in dynasty due to his age, but he is a solid hold for me. For a contending team, I would try to flip a younger RB for Mixon. He should be a valuable asset for the remainder of his current contract with Cincinnati (2022-2024) before becoming a free agent at 28 years old. If your team is in a rebuild, selling Mixon might make a lot of sense, especially while his value is as high as it is – due to his age, it will likely be downhill value-wise from here on out.

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