NFL Draft 2017 Scouting Report: RB Joe Mixon, Oklahoma
*Our RB grades can and will change as more information comes in from Pro Day workouts, leaked Wonderlic test results, etc. We will update ratings as new info becomes available.
*We use the term “Power RB” to separate physically bigger, more between-the-tackles-capable RBs from our “Speed RBs” group. “Speed RBs” are physically smaller but much faster/quicker, and less likely to flourish between the tackles.
Put a pin in any discussion about Mixon’s off-field issues. We’ll come back to that. Let’s first determine if there’s any NFL talent here to discuss…otherwise the rest of it doesn’t matter.
The answer is ‘yes’. Yes, there is NFL talent with Mixon. You can argue whether it’s ‘good’ or ‘great’, but there’s NFL talent here. At his foundation, you have a 225+ pound running back who can run a 4.45–4.50 40-time. That’s legit right there before you open up any other scouting box. No other running back at 220+ pounds at the NFL Combine ran below a 4.51 (Fournette). In the 220–230 pound weight class, Mixon may be the fastest RB prospect in the 2017 draft class. He has nice acceleration, above-average strength (21 bench reps), and weak but not terrible agility with shuttle and three-cone times that are ‘OK’-not-great. It’s an NFL body with athleticism.
But can he play, succeed at the next level? I think so. Watching his tape this week, I see him as similar to Ezekiel Elliott (and I’m not a huge Elliott fan, so slow down). 225+ pound RBs who can run in the 4.4s with quick enough/shifty feet, but weaker east-west running skills – all they need is good blocking and a heavy workload between the tackles and they’ll produce. Like Elliott, Mixon is patient with good vision…they have the ability to slow into congestion and then find the space and pop through it. Mixon doesn’t blindly run up blockers’ backs…he’s picking his spots. Not many RBs have the vision and patience like that.
Mixon can be a main-carry, workhorse, three-down RB…he’s big enough to take a beating. He has above-average hands in the passing game. He has NFL+ athleticism. He’s a legit NFL RB. You can debate how good. I’d call him a ‘B’ to ‘B+’ talent. Mixon is not David Johnson, Todd Gurley, Le’Veon Bell talented…but he’s talented.
Now, what do you do with his highly publicized off-field incident of punching a female student in an altercation…which led to a suspension and eventual release from the team? How do you insert that into the scouting landscape?
Everyone is going to judge Mixon through their lens of watching what happened on video with his incident. Some say, “You never hit a female, end of story.” Some are quietly looking at the tape and wondering if they would have been able to restrain themselves in the moment. The overall question is – will Mixon be an off-field headache/trouble in the locker room, etc. going forward? Is this a problem that will occur again? Is this in Mixon’s character? What is Mixon’s character?
Most of us have swept such an issue with Tyreek Hill under the rug. His action wasn’t on video. The press wasn’t able to have a field day with Hill like they are with Mixon. Hill’s similar transgression was 10x worse (if you want to judge between the two) than what Mixon did (my opinion). To some degree, the world is picking and choosing its outrage with video as a driving force on Mixon. Teams will want to draft Mixon but will not pay a higher price because his drafting team will get media heat regardless, but it will be worse if he’s a first round pick…or second, perhaps.
My notes on this are: I studied Mixon’s reaction to all this, and I don’t get the feeling that he is contrite. I believe he wishes this never happened. Who wouldn’t? But I don’t know that he is fully sorry or aware. Most of his post-event interviews are aloof, smug, distant. There’s not a genuine ‘handling’ of the situation by him. He’s bumbled it…which is understandable given he’s a kid, but there’s a lot of ‘kid’ in Mixon. That’s a scary signal for NFL teams. I walk away from my Mixon study wondering if this single event is more telling of problems ahead, more than just a one-off incident. Not that he’s going to go around punching everyone…but I wonder if there’s a lack of character/maturity that will haunt him. Everywhere he goes he’ll be known as ‘that guy’. When he fails some in the NFL and the media/fans rip him to shreds…will he have a firm backbone/resolve or will he turn to the wrong crowd/wrong vices to satisfy the negative emotions?
You want Mixon’s talent on your NFL roster…you don’t want to pay a lot for it in case it blows up.
*Note — there is a 2016 event with Mixon. He was suspended for a game for this incident…but probably warranted more considering the hitting a female incident a few years back. OU should be ashamed. Mixon got a parking ticket, and got into a verbal altercation with the attendant. He also tore up the ticket and threw it into their face. So, Mixon’s a real charmer. The more you know about Mixon the more you want to bet and root against him.
Joe Mixon, through the lens of our “Power RB” Scouting Algorithm
Mixon’s off-field stuff causes concern, and his performance in college may have some reason for pause as well…
His big games in college came against terrible Big 12 defenses. When he faced those run-and-gun Big 12 teams (Baylor, West Virginia, Texas Tech), Mixon had his 100+ yard rushing games. Against more stable, balanced, bigger name schools…Mixon wasn’t as great. Mixon doesn’t look as good versus Texas, Tennessee, Ohio State, Houston, Auburn, Clemson, and Kansas State.
Mixon had seven 100+ yard rushing games…against Texas Tech 2x, West Virginia, Baylor, Louisiana-Monroe, TCU, and Oklahoma State. TCU and Oklahoma State you want to have more respect for, but both were not in the top 70 in run defense last season (out of 128 D1 schools).
When you really look over Mixon’s game logs and consider the competition and outputs…it really wasn’t all that impressive, quite frankly.
Pro Day data…
4.45 40-time, 1.51 10-yard, 4.27 shuttle, 7.10 three-cone
21 bench press reps, 35.0″ vertical, 9′10″ broad jump
Mixon’s college stats on CFB Reference: http://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/joe-mixon-1.html
The NFL “Power RB” that Joe Mixon most compares with statistically in college, within our system:
I’m not surprised our system saw Ezekiel Elliott as a likely match…it’s the first thing that came to my mind. Remember, we don’t feel Elliott is as great a running back as the world does. Had Elliott gone to the Rams (instead of Gurley), you wouldn’t have cared as much about him today. Elliott is good and got a great team to work with, and was handed the keys to the kingdom. Mixon will not be handed those same keys…and who knows what team/coaches he’ll land with. He’s very likely entering the league as a backup.
*A score of 8.50+ is where we see a stronger correlation of RBs going on to become NFL good/great/elite. A score of 10.00+ is more rarefied air in our system and indicates a greater probability of becoming an elite NFL RB.
All of the RB ratings are based on a 0–10 scale, but a player can score negative, or above a 10.0 in certain instances.
Overall rating/score = A combination of several on-field performance measures, including refinement for the strength of opponents faced, mixed with all the physical measurement metrics—then compared/rated historically within our database and formulas. More of a traditional three-down search—runner, blocker, and receiver.
*RB-Re score = New/testing in 2017. Our new formula/rating that attempts to identify and quantify a prospect’s receiving skills even deeper than in our original formulas. RB prospects can now make it/thrive in the NFL strictly based on their receiving skills—it is an individual attribute sought out for the NFL and no longer dismissed or overlooked. Our rating combines a study of their receiving numbers in college in relation to their offense and opponents, as well as profiling size-speed-agility along with hand-size measurables, etc.
*RB-Ru score = New/testing in 2017. Our new formula/rating that attempts to classify and quantify an RB prospect’s ability strictly as a runner of the ball. Our rating combines a study of their rushing numbers in college in relation to their offense and strength of opponents, as well as profiling size-speed-agility along with various size measurables, etc.
Raw Speed Metric = A combination of several speed and size measurements from the NFL Combine, judged along with physical size profile, and then compared/rated historically within our database and scouting formulas. This is a rating strictly for RBs of a similar/bigger size profile.
Agility Metric = A combination of several speed and agility measurements from the NFL Combine, judged along with physical size profile, and then compared/rated historically within our database and scouting formulas. This is a rating strictly for RBs of a similar/bigger size profile.
2017 NFL Draft outlook…
I’ll say Mixon goes in the third round…possibly the late second or falls into the fourth. Teams will want to take him top 40, but they have the public and media to deal with. I also wouldn’t be shocked if Mixon goes to a very good team as a value pick late in a particular round – to Dallas or Pittsburgh as examples. A place where he would not be expected to start…and when the pick is made everyone cries ‘the rich get richer’.
NFL Outlook: I have no idea where this is headed. My gut tells me expectations are higher than the reality with Mixon…that he can’t live up to the hype. His teammate Samaje Perine was a far superior running back on the same team, and most fans or analysts could care less about Perine. Between the unhealthy focus and the off-field circus this invites…I think the deck is stacked against Mixon, especially if he winds up in a dysfunctional organization. There is hope, but betting for or against a great career – I bet against it…but not with a lot of money.
– R.C. Fischer is an NFL Draft analyst for College Football Metrics.com and a football projections analyst and writer for Fantasy Football Metrics.com. Read more of his work on FantasyPros and various football websites. His group also provides player projections for fantasy software such as Advanced Sports Logic’s The Machine.