After roster concerns, Joe Mixon is officially back with the Bengals this season (and probably next) and ready to challenge for his fourth top-10 finish at the position in five healthy seasons. The fantasy football community, however, isn’t liking the odds of this happening, as the veteran carries a fourth-round ADP that places him as a fringe top-15 producer at the position. So what gives?
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The Risk of Joe Mixon
I get the case against Mixon. The veteran back has over 1,500 touches on his NFL résumé, plays in an offense with arguably the best QB-WR-WR trio in the league, and saw the franchise address the backfield with Chase Brown (fifth-round pick out of Illinois) in the draft.
He is also coming off of a season that had peaks and valleys. For the third time in his career, he averaged under 4.0 yards per carry, and our last impression of him from 2022 was an ugly performance against the Chiefs in the AFC title game (eight carries for 19 yards, and it looked even worse).
Mixon opened the season with 46 carries through two games, but he averaged under 14 carries per game the rest of the way. Those fading Mixon this draft season are clearly saying that they’d rather risk jumping off the train a year early than a year late, a strategy that makes plenty of sense at the running back position.
The Stability of Mixon
The efficiency would be more of a red flag to me if Mixon was a player that previously relied on it. The truth is, he’s been a great fantasy football RB despite limitations in that area.
His chunk run rate last season (7.6% of carries gained at least 10 yards) was down only a tick from the two seasons prior (7.8%), not nearly enough for me to think a cliff truly awaits him in 2023.
As for the concerns about this offense developing into the “Joe Burrow Show” … that’s fine! Mixon recorded more catches last season (60) than he had ever seen targets prior, and the team made an effort to get him involved.
In fact, he saw 27 more targets last year than in 2021 despite running one fewer route. Brown averaged more than 12 carries per catch during his final two collegiate seasons, so it’s not as if the Bengals are likely to count on the rookie to take targets off of Mixon’s plate.
Boring. That’s the knock on Mixon. There is a lot of youth being drafted in front of him (Jahmyr Gibbs and Kenneth Walker III types) that offer a much wider range of outcomes. Fantasy managers, and humans in general for that matter, are programmed to focus on best-case scenarios.
You don’t go to a restaurant looking forward to an average Caesar salad, do you? No, you’re intrigued by the variety of a happy hour or the potential of a life-changing steak. That’s not how I approach the early rounds in fantasy football. I’ll take my Caesar salad every time and gamble on dessert. Have I taken this analogy too far? You get the idea: stability early, upside later.
Let’s see how far I can take this. Give me a serving of Joe Mixon with a side of Gabe Davis instead of a Kenneth Walker III entrée with Brandin Cooks to conclude the meal.
Now I’m hungry.
Hungry for fantasy success. Draft Mixon.
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