Bengals running back Joe Mixon’s current ADP in dynasty drafts is 1.11 according to Fantasy Football Calculator. It’s time to jump on the legitimate hype train as Mixon appears to be a potential top-five RB in 2019. Here’s why he’ll feast this season.
WHAT HE’S DONE
In 14 games last season, Mixon finished with a 237/1168/8 line to lead the AFC in rushing yards and ranked fourth in the NFL behind Ezekiel Elliott, Saquon Barkley and Todd Gurley. Talk about good company. Mixon earned PFF’s ninth-best run grade (82.0) and graded out 17th overall in the running back category (78.4). The grades are not exceptional but the Bengals offense went through its struggles in 2018. Mixon had a Workhorse Consumption Rate of 29% – eating nearly a third of the team’s offensive yardage. His WCR ranks fifth behind Elliott, David Johnson, Barkley and Christian McCaffrey. And the expectation is that Mixon becomes more of a bell cow with a new coaching staff.
Mixon showed he could carry the load last season, carrying the ball 20-plus times in five games. Enter head coach Zac Taylor who learned under Rams head coach Sean McVay for two years. Expect Mixon to be used like Todd Gurley in both the run and pass game. Mixon put up a 78% catch rate in 2018, totaling 43 receptions for 296 yards and a touchdown. It is possible he reaches 300 touches if he plays all 16 games in an offense that has invested in the trenches. The Bengals drafted offensive tackle Jonah Williams out of Alabama in the first round. Williams is a blue-chip hog who graded out as PFF’s fourth-best player on the board. In the second round Cincy took tight end Drew Sample out of Washington who earned the best run-blocking grade among TE’s (82.3) per PFF. The Bengals added another piece to the offensive line, drafting guard Michael Jordan out of Ohio State. Jordan made 41-straight starts at guard and center. Back to the 300-touch potential – only Elliott, Barkley, Johnson, Gurley and McCaffrey hit that mark in 2018. Mixon needed 20 and missed two games.
Expect to see a lot more jet sweep motions pre-snap as well as play-action passes from the Bengals offense and Taylor says he will be calling the plays himself. His playbook will stem from the Rams system which has dominated the category of handing it off to receivers around the end, keeping run defenders honest. With this threat, more holes should open up for Mixon who is a naturally patient runner. The Rams also motioned Gurley in and out of the backfield, getting him the ball on screen passes. Mixon will get those same opportunities, especially with the trio of A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd and John Ross in bunch formations. The Rams ran 11 personnel (one back, one tight end, three receivers) 96% of their total plays in 2018. With Ross or Boyd running the jet-sweep and Green on the outside, defenses can’t just lock in on Mixon.
According to Bengals.com, Mixon has shown several sparks of enthusiasm in practice. He’s been seen celebrating with rookie RB Trayveon Williams and firing up the defense as well, overall exuding his competitive nature and just having fun with his team.
“The level of competition raises your level of play,” Mixon said. “Everybody is trying to give their best effort whether they’re on the field or not. You have to cheer for your teammates and be their No. 1 fans and that’s what everybody is starting to do and as long as we can keep that going, I think that will be great.”
As Mixon gains the trust of his teammates, his coaches will believe in him too. So when the game is on the line, don’t be surprised when he gets extra touches in crunch time.
EAT LIKE ZEKE
Via Player Profiler, Joe Mixon’s best comparable by workout metrics is Ezekiel Elliott. Similar in size and athleticism, these two backs are physically durable. Difference is, Zeke walked into a way better situation in Dallas as the unchallenged RB1 with an expensive offensive line blocking for him. Now Mixon may be able to live that life going into year three. New scheme, more expected touches and improved offensive line are major factors to help Mixon feast in the near future.