Joe Mixon probably made you cry last year, especially if you drafted him in the first/second round turn as so many players with a 1.10-1.12 pick did. Do you want to relieve that decision? Of course, you do! Let’s check out Mixon’s stats over at the Team Rise or Fall Study Hub: Mixon played 6 games in 2020 and finished the season with 428 yards on 119 carries. OK, that’s not that bad, right? However, for a player that often went before pick 15 — and often as a RB1 for teams that took Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, or Travis Kelce in round 1 — Joe Mixon was an unmitigated fantasy football disaster in 2020. Of course, so were Christian McCaffrey (59 carries) and Saquon Barkley (19 carries).
Quick — who has almost the exact same statistics as Saquon Barkley (2310 yards, 4.8 yards per attempt) over their past 2 “healthy” years? Yeah, it’s Joe Mixon (2305 yards, 4.5 yards per attempt). So why are people taking Saquon nearly a round or two earlier than Joe Mixon in 2021?
Let’s dive into the Bengals’ star running back and see if he’s a good target for your Underdog best ball drafts at his current ADP of 20.
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Zac Taylor has coached the Bengals to a 6-25 record over the past two years. Not much lower to go, right? The Bengals have also struggled mightily with injuries behind a weak offensive line that remains basically unimproved going into 2021. Last year, the Bengals lost Joe Mixon and quarterback Joe Burrow to injuries for the majority of the campaign. This year, the Bengals should be going forward with full health and the addition of Ja’Marr Chase, the 5th overall pick of the 2021 draft and a wideout capable of stretching the field and drawing attention away from the line of scrimmage. Of course, Zac Taylor’s dismal performance as a head coach so far could lead to a coaching change midway through the year if the Bengals continue to struggle. On the flipside, a struggling coach could lean on his top players more often, and Joe Mixon is a player that Taylor has shown confidence in over and over again.
Reports out of training camp indicate that Joe Mixon is fully healed and will not have any workload caps in the 2021 season. Last week, The Athletic reported that Bengals’ offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said,
“The expectations are high for Joe, as I’ve said before, to be on the field quite a bit,” Callahan said. “Obviously, he can’t play every snap of every game, but he has the ability and the skill set to be a three-down player.”
With coach praise already looking good for Mixon’s workhorse style — he carried 240 times and 280 times in 2018 and 2019 respectively — the 25-year old running back looks primed to exceed his ADP. Heck, the reason Mixon ended up on the IL last year was because he kept playing through an injury. Even though Mixon felt a suspicious pain in his ankle, he went back out on the field and charged forward for a touchdown. Sure, he got the points, but he paid the price by missing out on the rest of the season. For Mixon, it probably didn’t matter — he got his big contract before the 2020 campaign. He had his money, he could do whatever he wanted with his foot.
The Team Rise or Fall Underdog Projections envisions Joe Mixon to take 67% of the rushing attempts in the Bengals system, which is an enormous cliff compared to the running backs ranked immediately after Mixon. For example, Mixon is slotted for a 67% carry share at RB14 in the Underdog Projections, while J.K. Dobbins at RB15 has a meager 52% share, RB16 Antonio Gibson has a 60% share, and RB17 D’Andre Swift has a 56% share. To help you find players who are more likely to exceed their expectations, you want to look for players who are getting an exceptional volume of touches — think Derrick Henry or 2019 Christian McCaffrey — and Mixon’s carry share percentage trails only Derrick Henry and Dalvin Cook. So, with some health on the Bengals’ side and the slightest of offensive line improvements, we could see Mixon easily surpassing his current projection value of 223 Underdog points.
Additionally, Mixon has a higher projected target share than other running backs with higher ADPs like Ezekiel Elliott, Najee Harris, and Nick Chubb. Although 3 targets per game seem somewhat meager, Mixon’s projected season total of 58 targets is nearly 20% higher than Antonio Gibson’s projections. That, my friends, is a bonus in Underdog best-ball formats.
With Joe Mixon’s Underdog ADP sitting at 20– about the 12th running back off the board — he is an aggressive RB1 pick for teams taking a WR or TE in round 1. Even better, Mixon would be an awesome RB2. I saw a recent draft in Underdog where the tout snagged Joe Mixon in round 3 for a Robust RB build (and Jonathan Taylor at pick 24!), and that’s the kind of inefficiency that can give sharks an advantage against the fish.
Joe Mixon is an interesting combination of efficiency and volume that looks primed to exceed his Underdog ADP in 2021. His injuries in 2020 limit the steam on his draft cost in 2021, although the current reports out of camp indicate that he’s fully healthy and ready to go. The Bengals’ coaches are giving him the green light to be on the field as much as possible, and with head coach Zac Taylor likely playing for his job this year, an early efficient showing from Mixon could result in more game script going his way. I’d recommend a moderate exposure of 25-35% to Mixon in 2021; running backs can always get hurt, and the Bengals are always a team on the verge of collapse. However, it’s that collective anxiety that fantasy managers have about the Bengals’ offense that makes Joe Mixon draftable at a very affordable price.
Original Image Source: Bengals Wire (USA Today)
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