NFL draft profile: No. 34 — Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon, major talent with massive concerns

Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon
6-foot-1, 226 pounds

Key stat: Ranked second nationally in 2016 in all-purpose yards per game (behind Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey) at 194.3. On 249 touches, Mixon totaled 2,331 yards (third most in NCAA). He rushed for 1,274 yards with 10 TDs; caught 37 passes for 538 yards with five TDs; and returned 21 kickoffs for 494 yards and a TD, and four punts for 25 yards. Mixon also threw for a 26-yard TD pass last season against Kansas State.

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Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon is a talented back but one who comes with major off-field concerns. (AP)
Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon is a talented back but one who comes with major off-field concerns. (AP)

The skinny: Everything Mixon did on the field at Oklahoma was overshadowed by a well-publicized incident in which he punched a female student at a restaurant. Mixon was suspended for the entire 2014 season, but it wasn’t until 2016 — after the video of the incident was made public — that he issued a formal apology. He also was suspended one game in the fall for getting into an argument with a campus parking attendant after receiving a ticket.

Over the past two seasons, Mixon has been one of the best running backs in the country, sharing the load with another quality runner in Samaje Perine. Mixon improved on his 2015 numbers as a rusher (753 yards, seven TD) and receiver (356 yards, four TDs) to become one of the premiere backs in the country. Against Texas Tech in 2016, Mixon rushed 31 times for 263 yards with two TDs and caught four passes for 114 yards with three scores … and had a 68-yard TD called back.

Mixon was not invited to the NFL scouting combine because of a provision that allows the league to bar players with checkered pasts, but it didn’t seem to hurt his cause and some NFL teams lamented the fact that Mixon was not in Indianapolis, thus preventing them from having another opportunity to question him about what happened on that day in 2014. Mixon tested well at his pro day and was interviewed by a number of teams about the incident and other off-field concerns.

Best-suited destination: Talent-wise, Mixon fits into every NFL offense. Gap-blocking scheme, man-blocking, shotgun, I-formation, spread — there’s not a system he doesn’t offer something to. But with Mixon, his off-field troubles likely will require a team’s ownership signing off on the pick. There will be a lot of negative publicity that will come with picking Mixon, no matter where he goes.

Teams such as the Kansas City Chiefs (who drafted Tyreek Hill, who had an ugly domestic violence incident on his record, last year), Indianapolis Colts (whose new GM, Chris Ballard, was with the Chiefs staff that drafted Hill), Cincinnati Bengals, Oakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks (who drafted Frank Clark, another player with domestic violence charges, in Round 2) and Detroit Lions are among the ones who could be compelled to consider drafting Mixon if he interviews well with them and convinces them that he won’t break the law in the future.

Upside: Mixon is a powerful runner who carries his weight extremely well. He runs downhill and yet can switch gears with ease. Patience to let blocks develop and will shoot through open holes right as they’re opening. Has exceptional receiving skills, on par with McCaffrey as the best in the 2017 RB class. Mixon can run almost any route and can beat linebackers easily in single coverage. Has a fiery playing temperament and will stick his nose into the trash as a pass blocker.

As a runner, he can create something out of nothing. Watch as he’s hemmed in, reverses field, switches hands with the ball, stiff-arms a defender and finishes strong against Texas Tech:

Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY
Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

And then later in the same game, more magic (even though a hold negated the play and the tackling was shoddy):

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Animated GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Downside: Major character red flags. Has not convinced all NFL evaluators that he’s a changed man or that he feels true remorse for his actions in 2014. Teams also are worried about his character beyond the assault case. Some feel he was enabled at Oklahoma and might not respond well to tough coaching and greater scrutiny. As a runner, a lot of his production came against weak Big 12 defenses. Massive holes allowed Mixon to gain big-chunk plays. Can be too patient at times and be taken down in the backfield waiting for his opportunity to open up. Can’t make as many big plays behind a offensive line that isn’t dominant, a la Todd Gurley in 2016 with the Los Angeles Rams. Mixon still has room to improve as a pass blocker.

Scouting hot take: “I suspect we are like a lot of other teams that will need ownership [approval] before we can green-light that pick. We’ve done a lot of work on him. I didn’t like how he handled things in the aftermath. You see the agent now getting in and setting the course [on how to address the issue]. It’s straight from the agent playbook. We have a meeting with him since he wasn’t here [at the combine]. That’s not exactly how we wanted to do it, even though we still can control the environment with him. We still have a lot to ask him, but I suspect he’s going pretty early. A lot of time has passed, and I just think someone will feel comfortable going in pretty soon.” — AFC college scouting director

Player comp: Le’Veon Bell

Expected draft range: Top 50 pick. As time goes along, the chances of Mixon fitting into the back end of Round 1 or the early stages of Round 2 increases.

Previous profiles

Nos. 51-100: Here’s who just missed the cut
No. 50: Indiana OG-C Dan Feeney
No. 49: Iowa DB Desmond King
No. 48: Vanderbilt LB Zach Cunningham
No. 47: Wisconsin pass rusher T.J. Watt
No. 46. Alabama pass rusher Tim Williams
No. 45. Washington CB Sidney Jones
No. 44. Alabama LB Ryan Anderson
No. 43. Ohio State WR-RB Curtis Samuel
No. 42. Florida DT Caleb Brantley
No. 41. Connecticut DB Obi Melifonwu
No. 40. USC CB-KR Adoree’ Jackson
No. 39. Texas Tech QB Patrick Mahomes
No. 38. Michigan State DL Malik McDowell
No. 37: Ole Miss TE Evan Engram
No. 36: Florida LB Jarrad Davis
No. 35: Washington S Budda Baker

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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