Fantasy Football for Schmucks: Is Joe Mixon Poised to Breakout?
It is extremely important to identify players poised to take that next step in fantasy and push towards that upper echelon at their position group. This is how you can get ahead in dynasty and how you can get a possible top 3 player at their position at a decent value. One player I believe will take that next step and be on alot of championship rosters this season is none other than Joe Mixon!
Mixon is your prototypical workhorse RB that teams love. He weighed in at 228 lbs at the combine at a height of 6'1". He ran a 4.5 forty, placing his weight adjusted speed score in the 92nd percentile per PFF. His burst and agility scores were around the 50th percentile so he was explosive enough at the combine. Also PFF has his best comp being one of the best RBs in the league, Ezekiel Elliott. This makes a ton of sense because I believe them to be the same caliber of back!
Mixon played just two years at Oklahoma but was very productive in his short stint. As soon as he got his chance, he looked the part of a star in the making. In his redshirt freshman year, Mixon rushed the ball 113 times accumulating 753 yards and 7 TDs. He even contributed in the passing game with 28 receptions for 356 yards and 4 TDs. This was foreshadowing of what was to come in his sophomore season. Joe did not miss a beat. He racked up 1,274 yards and 10 TDs on 187 carries adding 37 receptions for 538 yards and 5 TDs. Mixon averaged 6.8 ypc (90th percentile) and commanded an 11.7% target share (84th percentile for RBs), per PFF. Mixon proved everything he needed to in the college ranks and was now ready to bring his talents to the National Football League!
Welcome to the NFL
Mixon was viewed by NFL.com as the top RB in the 2017 draft based on pure talent and was ranked in the top 4 by just about all sports outlets. He was selected in the 2nd round with the 48th overall pick by the Cincinnati Bengals. Mixon may have been chosen earlier but there were questions about previous off field issues.
Surprisingly the incident actually happened in 2014 when he struck a young woman in the face.
Since this time there has not been much off field concern, so that seems to be a thing of the past. Mixon came out of the gate a bit slow his rookie season, only averaging 3.5 ypc but was able to amass 178 carries for 626 yards with 4 TDs while catching 30 passes for 287 yards. His second year he took a step forward rushing for 1168 yards at 4.9 yards clip. He had 8 rushing TDs and added 43 receptions for nearly 300 yards and a TD. Now we will go a little more in depth for this past season. His overall stat line on the year looks pretty solid. Mixon rushed the ball 278 times accumulating 1,137 yards (4.1ypc) and 5TDs. He tacked on 35 receptions for 287 yards and 3 TDs.
However in 2019 it was tough sledding the first half of the season. It was truly a tale of two seasons as he was the RB 6 through the final 8 games of the season. Let's dive into his atrocious start to the season. Mixon only played on roughly 54% of Cincinnati's offensive snaps. He was given just 101 carries (12.6 carries per game) and struggled with them. Joe had 320 rushing yards (3.16 ypc) and added ZERO TDs on the ground. He did get a little passing work, nabbing 19 receptions for 110 yards and 3 TDs. This came to an average of 15 total touches per game. Fantasy owners were furious!
The early round investment they had to use to acquire Mixon looked like a terrible mistake. Then the bye week happened. When the Bengals came out the second half of the season they featured the young RB, and he proved to be who many of us thought he was to start the season! They fed him, with him averaging 22.1 carries per game and 24.1 total touches per game! He turned the 177 rushing attempts into 817 yards (4.6ypc), and 5 TDs while adding 16 receptions for 177 yards. This is damn near 1,000 scrimmage yards in just 8 games people! He was on a 16 game pace for 1,634 rushing yards and 10 TDs.
He did all of this on just 65 percent of Cincinnati's offensive snaps during this stretch. To put this into context I will list out some notable RBs snap shares in 2019: CMC 91.3%, Zeke 83.5%, Barkley (when healthy) 87.4%, and Kamara who we all think of as splitting time 69%! It is crazy to think he could have had so much more opportunity, and he produced this great stretch while dealing with Ryan Finley at QB through half of the games. He also dealt with having one of the worst offensive lines in the league. They were ranked 26th in run blocking by Football Outsiders. And let me add onto these excuses that Tyler Boyd was their only real receiving option with AJ Green and John Ross sidelined. Auden Tate and Alex Erickson were the 2 and 3 at WR. The odds were stacked against Mixon and he produced despite them!
From the Film
Watching Joe Mixon on film is a delight. The guy has it all, which is why so many of us get excited for him each year! He is definitely one of those players that pops off of the screen! You can see the explosiveness, the top end speed, the great vision, contact balance, and power. He is elusive with his 32.9% juke rate (4th for RBs) and broke 24 tackles last year showing his power. He has great hands for an RB and is an above average route runner. However, the thing that stands out to me most is the guy does not give up. You can see this throughout the amazing stretch at the end of the season. The Bengals had nothing to play for, and it did not matter if it was the first quarter or the fourth quarter he was giving full effort! You can also see it in his ability to create for himself, not giving up when a play breaks down. You can see an example of this below at the 2:36 mark in the video.
If you have not checked out his highlights please do yourself a favor and watch them!
It is the offseason, so we all love some good coach speak. Even the great Bill Belichick has raved about Mixon. After the talented RB put up 136 rushing yards against the Patriots Belichick said, "Mixon is a good one, too. He probably is the best back in the league. He runs so hard and is so hard to tackle." Then this offseason his OC was heaping praise onto the running back. "He gets better as he gets more carries. As the season went along we got better getting him more touches... He's been very effective as far as just pure touches. Carries and catches...
The more Joe touches the ball the better it is for our offense, without a doubt." Callahan stated to the Bengals senior writer, Geoff Hobson. This gives me the feeling they want to get him more involved in the passing game along with just getting him more touches in general. And for dynasty owners, Duke Tobin hinted at an extension saying "He's a piece that we'd like to get extended... Typically our extensions have gotten done during training camp at some point." All signs are pointing up for Mixon in the short and long term and his team seems committed to him!
What to do in Fantasy
Mixon has true potential to finish in the top 3 at RB. His RB 6 stretch is a long enough sample size to project it going forward. He should have more scoring opportunities with the young stud from da bayou Joe Burreaux (my LSU colors are showing) taking over at QB this season.
The Bengals should also have more competent weapons in the passing game. AJ Green back from injury, Ross, Boyd, and the newly drafted 2nd round pick Tee Higgins should form a very talented and speedy WR corps. This will force defenses to respect the pass more and not focus in on Joe Mixon, opening up more running lanes for the 4th year pro. On the 65% of snaps in the back half of the season Mixon was on a 16 game pace for 291 PPR fantasy points which would have put him right behind Dalvin Cook. If he can be on the field more often maybe he finishes even better!
Mixon's ADP is 25 overall and the 14th RB off the board in ESPN PPR redraft leagues. Across all platforms he is pick 12 overall and RB 7 off of the board, so you ESPN players take advantage of this disparity right now! Now for dynasty. Mixon's DLF ADP is 10th overall and the 9th RB off of the board. Mixon has already had two top 12 PPR finishes and has played on very bad teams.
If they are any better, and maybe even if they aren't, he can become a top 5 dynasty RB. Mixon is attainable in dynasty through trades as well. Some trades I was able to find on DLF: David Montgomery, Cooks, and a 21 3rd for Mixon; CEH for Mixon, Sanders for Mixon, Darnold and Bud Dupree for Mixon, and then Barkley for Mixon and the 1.08. His price point is not crazy as of now, but if you don't jump on it now I think next year may be too late. By then Mixon could cost you a king's ransom. I would advise grabbing Mixon where you can in dynasty and redraft. He is a great late 1st/ early 2nd round pick in redraft.
Mixon is one of the most exciting backs in the league. He may move into that upper echelon of backs in a hurry. From a pure talent perspective he is a top 5 back in the league for me. Now is the time to jump on the Mixon bandwagon. We are slowing down for you to hop aboard, but do it quick before it takes off and you are left in the dust!