Matt Williamson is a former scout for the Cleveland Browns, and spent the last 10 years at ESPN as a scout and co-host of the podcast “Football Today.”
We’re just talking football here. What Joe Mixon did was abhorrent, and it’s on film for everyone to see. Every NFL team will have to make a decision on whether it would even consider adding him to the roster. But, again, we’re only talking about football, and in that respect he appears to be the best running back prospect in this draft class.
Mixon is exactly what the NFL is looking for at the position right now. Leonard Fournette is a better old-school power runner. Dalvin Cook is more explosive, and a more dangerous big-play threat. Christian McCaffrey is a better receiver. But Mixon’s combination of all three is what puts him at the top.
Everyone is looking for the next Le’Veon Bell or David Johnson. One year ago, Ezekiel Elliott was considered not only a special runner, but highly advanced in the passing game as well. He should improve greatly in the latter in his second season. Big, bruising runners like Eddie Lacy, Latavius Murray, LeGarrette Blount, and even the great Adrian Peterson, which offer little as receivers, either found lukewarm markets or are presently unemployed. The new prototype for the position is a big every-down runner that can help a lot as a receiver. That’s Mixon.
Mixon measured slightly over 6-feet tall and weighs just under 230 pounds. He’s only 20 years old, ran in the low-to-mid-4.4s in his 40-yard dash, and had very good vertical and broad jump numbers at his pro day. He fits any running scheme, with a good combination of elusiveness, balance, acceleration, speed, toughness, and power. Some compare him to Bell because of his frame, overall game, and extreme vision and patience. He’s smooth and fluid with a supple lower body, but still explosive. He’s the total package as a runner, and is equally effective running in the interior or outside the tackles. You can easily see why Mixon was a five-star recruit coming out of high school.
Over two seasons at Oklahoma, he carried the ball 300 times, sharing touches with Samaje Perine. But Mixon ran for 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns on those attempts – an absurd 6.75 yards per carry. He added another nine touchdowns and nearly 900 yards on his 65 receptions. That’s pretty serious production.
Like Bell, Mixon is the rare running back that can detach from the formation and run wide receiver routes, with soft, natural hands. He isn’t a liability at all in this capacity, but does need more work in pass protection. Still, these rare players are just so difficult for opposing defenses to slow down, and he certainly has the body type to hold up well against NFL pass-rushers.
Think about Bell in Pittsburgh or Johnson in Arizona. If the Steelers or Cardinals come out in 12 personnel (1 RB/2 TE) with two wide receivers, what does the defense do? Stopping Bell or Johnson as a runner with seven blockers for him with lighter defensive personnel is a difficult chore if the defense plays nickel or dime against such an alignment. But if the defense comes out in base defense, Ben Roethlisberger or Carson Palmer can detach Bell or Johnson (and maybe a move tight end as well) and easily find a matchup in the passing game to the quarterback’s liking. Mixon is capable of creating the same type of mismatch.
There’s no answer for such a player, and that’s why he’s the best running back prospect in this draft class.
(Photos courtesy: Action Images)
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