The biggest box office success of 2017 is the Disney remake of Beauty And The Beast. The blockbuster that features Emma Watson, who falls in love with a wildebeest buffalo who dresses like Beethoven, has now earned $910 million worldwide in under a month.
The fairy tale has nothing to do with football but my brain found a way to relate the movie title back to one of the most controversial players in the 2017 NFL Draft. Joe Mixon's on the field play is beautiful. However, off the field, he is described by many as a beast.
For those unfamiliar with his past, on the night of his 18th birthday, prior to his freshman year at Oklahoma, Mixon was involved in an altercation at a Norman, OK cafe. Mixon punched a woman in the face, fracturing four bones. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor assault, received a one-year deferred sentence, was required to perform 100 hours of community service and undergo counseling. Mixon was also suspended by Oklahoma University for the entire 2014 season.
The video of the assault was released in December 2016, which caused outrage. Some front offices have been vocal about Mixon's past but the majority have been quiet on whether or not he will be on their draft boards. With that being said teams are still doing their due diligence by meeting with him the past few weeks since he was not invited to the NFL Combine.
It is also worth noting that Mixon was suspended for one game in 2016 over a parking ticket dispute. He allegedly tore up a parking ticket and tossed it at the attendant. Mixon was never charged in this incident.
There is a lot to unpack with Mixon because his off-field resume is understandably something that no one wants to attach their brand too but his on the field resume perfectly matches up with what the NFL wants from a running back in 2017.
Games Watched: Oklahoma State (2016), Auburn (2016), Ohio State (2016), Texas Tech (2016), Baylor (2016), Kansas State (2016)
The running back position is as devalued as ever in the NFL. Gone are the days when your starter was guaranteed 20-25 touches per game. In recent years, the NFL has shifted more towards a committee approach. Take the Super Bowl Champs for example. LeGarrette Blount led the NFL in touchdowns (18) as the between the tackles back while Dion Lewis and James White accounted for 77 receptions. The Le'Veon Bell's and David Johnson's of the world are the exceptions to the rule. What makes them rare is that they're just as talented as receivers as they are running backs and they are comfortable running the ball from any formation and alignment. This last part may seem insignificant but in a passing league, players like Adrian Peterson and Leonard Fournette are not fitted for spread offenses and running the ball from the shotgun formation. At 6'1", 228 pounds with 4.4-4.5 speed and special receiving ability, Joe Mixon fits the mold of the modern bell-cow back in the NFL.
What makes Mixon stand out from the pack, in my opinion, is his lower body. Mixon has loose flexible hips, spring in his jump cuts and excellent footwork for a guy his size. Mixon shows patience waiting for plays to develop and once he sees a crease he's able to cut on a dime and shoot through. These plays are much more difficult than Mixon makes them look. Most running backs need a step or two to throttle down to make the cut. When there is penetration in the backfield Mixon's go-to moves are either his patented jump cut or a spin move. There are runs where Mixon looks like he's slalom skiing down a mountain the way he strings his jump cuts together to evade defenders.
Use arrows to scroll through more GIFs displaying Mixon's agility, balance, burst and footwork
Athletically Mixon tested well at his pro day, putting up similar numbers to what Ezekiel Elliott posted at the 2016 combine. As an open field runner, Mixon is a long strider reminiscent of someone like Melvin Gordon. His speed isn't transcendent but it's still very very good. At his pro day, most teams came away with Mixon timed in the mid to high 4.4's in his only 40-yard dash attempt.
Even though he's 228 pounds Mixon is more of a finesse than a power back. Mixon isn't a bulldozer like Leonard Fournette and that's ok. He doesn't need to be. He chooses to juke a defender in the open field rather than trying to end their life by running over them. Mixon has shown he can shed lineman (Baylor TD Run) and bounce off linebackers. At times, Mixon runs a little high but there are instances where he runs with great pad level and forward lean as he bursts up the gut of a defense.
A lethal receiver out of the backfield, Mixon can run a variety of routes well and even sometimes showboats with a one-handed grab in stride. Mixon has no issues adjusting to passes and creates easy separation from defenders on underneath routes.
Use arrows to scroll through more GIFs of Mixon as a receiver
Mixon wasn't kept into block often but I was able to find some instances of Mixon pass blocking and he did his job for the most part. With such little experience, I wasn't expecting him to be perfect, but Mixon will need to put in the work here to become the focal point of an offense.
There aren't any fatal flaws in Mixon's game but there is definitely room for improvement in a few areas. One of those being ball security. Mixon fumbled on average once every 73 touches. Per Dane Brugler of CBS sports, the average fumble rate for the top-10 rushers in the NFL last season was once every 108.5 touches. I view fumbles the same way I view drops by wide receivers and interceptions by quarterbacks. If a player is adding an element to my offense the other 98% of his plays it's something I'm willing to live with.
Fumble Rates For Running Back Prospects In the 2017 NFL Draft:
Kareem Hunt: 856
Christian McCaffrey: 243.7
Samaje Perine: 120.8
Leonard Fournette: 82.1
D'Onta Foreman: 74.3
Alvin Kamara: 71
Dalvin Cook: 63.8
Mixon's decision-making at the line of scrimmage and vision is questionable at times but I don't see it ever becoming big enough of a problem to where it worries me.
Last year Zeke checked all the boxes and went #4 overall to Dallas. Obviously, there is a better chance Mixon goes undrafted than #4 but to me, he is just a tad behind Elliott as an overall player and he's the top running back in this class and a top 10 overall talent.
With the NFL Draft approaching, we're only a few weeks away until we find out how the NFL feels about their version of Beauty And The Beast. My guess is that one team will be willing to take the plunge in the 2nd round.
NFL Player Comparison: Le'Veon Bell/David Johnson, (X), Melvin Gordon, DeShaun Foster, Chris Perry
*This was an evaluation of Joe Mixon's on-field talent. I, in no way, support his off-field actions. Simple as that*
Oh, Joe Mixon can also do this.