Joe Mixon has gotten a lot of praise for his skills and measurables by the NFL and fantasy communities alike. There are a number of hurdles, however, that Mixon has to get over before he becomes a fantasy star. The primary one is proving that he has learned from that horrific incident and grown as a man in maturity and decision making. If he shows up to camp prepared and stays out of trouble, this will be an early sign that things are pointing in the right direction.
Joe Mixon was a controversial pick for the Bengals to choose in the NFL Draft. But the Bengals are no strangers to choosing these types of players, with mixed success. Only time will tell as to whether Mixon has truly learned from his awful actions.
Once he passes this hurdle, we get to the million-dollar question: will he get enough opportunities? It’s no secret that the NFL is becoming more and more of a passing league, and finding a running back that will end up with enough touches is getting harder.
This gets even more difficult when the backfield is crowded. And the Bengals backfield currently features two off-and-on starters in Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill, who showed promise in the past. Clearly the Bengals want to move on from them as feature backs, but that does not mean that they will disappear.
In order to understand what potential Mixon has and how much workload he’s going to have to take from the other guys, let’s look at how the backs performed last year. Hill, Bernard, and Burkhead (now in New England) combined for 387 carries and 77 catches. Hill’s 222 carries placed him at 14th in the league.
This means that for Mixon to get enough rushes for fantasy relevance, he’d have to take all of the rushes that Burkhead left, along with a substantial portion of Hill’s. I’d want him to get between 230-250 carries. My projection would be that he can hit 240, with Hill and Bernard each getting the bulk of their carries earlier on in the season.
The reception totals were surprisingly equal last year, although Bernard ended up 16th in yards while Hill was 42nd. Mixon would need about 50 receptions to break into the top 10, and I think that that is a very real possibility if he proves he can pass protect (he’s big enough to do fine). With only one touchdown receiving last year between all the running backs, I don’t see why the Bengals would feel any pressure to give any back other than Mixon a big target share in the backfield. This gives him clear potential for three downs of work.
Drafting Joe Mixon will take two things come August: an early-ish draft pick and patience. His ADP is slowly rising and I have a feeling he’ll get plenty of hype before your fantasy draft; especially considering that great running backs aren’t too common. Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard both proved in past years that there are points to be had in the Bengals backfield. They’ve both also proved, however, that they simply cannot produce like a full-time starter should.
Nevertheless, Bernard may steal some 3rd down catches, and Hill may fall into the end zone a few times. If both players remain on the Bengals roster, you’re going to be pulling your hair out when starting Mixon at times. But as the season progresses, I’m betting on the fact that Mixon takes over more and more of the role, and by the end, will become a fantasy starter every week.