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The Upside and Downside of Drafting Joe Mixon


Something that us fantasy football players often fall victim to is projecting, and drafting players at their absolute ceiling. Currently I think that is happening with Bengals running back Joe Mixon. Don't get me wrong I love Mixon and I think he is in for a great year and he is going to be a great fantasy RB, but my job is to give you guys both sides of the story. I don't believe Joe Mixon is being overvalued at the RB7, however I believe that his current ADP is his ceiling. Everyone seems to hate the downside of Miles Sanders and Kenyan Drake, yet the seem to completely ignore the downside that Joe Mixon has. I think he is somewhat safer than guys like Sanders and Drake going around him, but I don't think he has the upside they hold. 


A Tale of 2 Seasons

Joe Mixon's 2019 season truly was a tale of two seasons. Over his first 8 games he was the RB31, averaging 10 PPG, while being labeled as the biggest bust of 2019 by many. Then following the week 9 bye, he turned it around. Over the final 8 games of the season he was the RB4 averaging 18.2 PPG. Those 8 games basically made his 2020 ADP and people are just forgetting how bad he was in the first 8 games. I understand that this year he is in a much better situation, but just how much better is the question I am asking. Let's get into the good and the bad surrounding Joe Mixon's 2020 fantasy outlook.


The Good

In my opinion Joe Mixon is one of the elite rushers in the NFL. What he was able to accomplish last year, in the situation that he found himself in, is undeniably impressive. The fact that he has been able to put up 2 seasons of 1100+ rushing yards with bottom ranked offensive lines (27th in 2018, 30th in 2019) is unbelievable. I would expect another top tier season from Mixon on the ground in 2020.


A terrible offensive line has always been a problem that Mixon has faced throughout his career. Like I mentioned already Mixon had the 27th ranked line in 2018 and the 30th ranked line in 2019. Heading into 2020 I believe that we will see some forms of improvements in this offensive line with former 1st round pick Jonah Williams returning to the lineup. Williams missed his entire rookie year due to injury in 2019 and I strongly believe that he will make a huge difference on this line. In an interview before the 2019 draft Nick Saban claimed that Williams was Alabama's best player outside of Quinnen Williams. Keep in mind that this roster included players like: Josh Jacobs, Tua Tagoviloa, Trevon Diggs, Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, and Jedrick Wills. Jonah Williams is the real deal. If we can even see a slight improvement to this line, Joe Mixon will be in for an elite year on the ground.


Overall the entire Bengals roster improved this year and I think that is a good thing for Mixon. The defense isn't as bad as people make them seem to be. The return of AJ Green and addition of Tee Higgins will greatly help this offense and of course Joe Burrow is set to turn this franchise around. I think that the Bengals will be in more games this year leading to much improved game scripts for Mixon. Everything is trending upward for Mixon, however I still do have concerns for him.


The Bad

If I am lower on a running back than consensus it's likely because I'm not confident in their pass catching ability or passing catching opportunity. For Mixon I believe he is not going to see the opportunity that we are projecting. One myth I fell for early in the offseason is that Joe Burrow loves to target his RB's. That's somewhat true as in 2019 he targeted his RB's at a very high rate. However I strongly believe that it was a result of Joe Brady's scheme at LSU.


In 2018 Joe Burrow helped his RB's catch a grand total of 31 passes. Then Joe Brady comes in as the OC in 2019 and LSU running backs totaled 79 receptions. Obviously a huge uptake in passing volume to the running backs. I think this has a lot to do with Brady and not so much to do with Burrow.


Another concern I have for Mixon is Gio Bernard's involvement in the passing game. Gio has been in the league for 7 years and has never finished with less than 40 targets. I don't think that Bernard is anywhere near the RB that Mixon is but he has a role in this offense, and it's a very valuable role.

To reiterate my point of Joe Mixon's pass catching concerns I am going to reference some interesting Data the @NickBDGE collected involving Mixon:



The most common time for a RB to catch passes is in negative game scripts, in other words when your team is trailing. The Bengals were the perfect team for a RB to catch passes based on these numbers, yet Mixon's targets and receptions dipped from the previous year. That's concerning. Yes Burrow should help Mixon in the passing game but I won't be expecting a 50+ reception year out of Mixon.

"Top 5 Potential"

I hear "top 5 potential" being brought up constantly when talking about Joe Mixon and while it's quite possible if everything goes right for him, it's going to be very hard simply due to his receiving totals and a bad offense. Here is some Data I collected on previous top 5 RBs:



As you can see a top 10 offense is extremely common and catching 50+ passes is almost a requirement outside of Derrick Henry and Aaron Jones, both who scored 18+ touchdowns last year. There were three players who had offenses that were top 20 or lower, a finish we can expect from the Bengals. What did these guys do to crack the top 5? They all caught 75+ passes and 2/3 of them caught 90+ passes, a number that Mixon will probably not get anywhere near.


This is what I mean when I say that Mixon is being drafted at his ceiling. A top 7-8 finish is something that I can see happening, however the top 5 is too farfetched in my opinion. In no way am I saying that Mixon will bust or won't be good. I'm just giving you both sides of the outlook.


All in all, Mixon is in for a great year and I have no problem drafting him in the late first round. Personally, I'll be taking Miles Sanders and Kenyan Drake over Mixon as I see the clear top 5, league winning upside they have. But Mixon is a safe RB1 who will consistently be there every week for you!


Projections

1300 rushing yards

8 TD

45 receptions

300 yards

2 TD

265 Fantasy Points

-Fantasy Champs



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