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Oklahoma Sooners 2017 NFL Draft Profile: Joe Mixon

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Mixon is a first-round talent, but who will take a chance on him?

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Auburn vs Oklahoma Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Draft has arrived, and speculation is starting to run wild. Much of the talk centers around Joe Mixon, arguably one of the best all-around backs to come out of the University of Oklahoma ever and one of the most talented in the draft.

Mixon’s Story

Joe Mixon was a very highly recruited prospect coming out of Freedom High School in Oakley, California. He was one of Bob Stoops’ biggest hauls ever in terms of blue chip status, as he was rated as a five-star recruit by multiple services.

He committed in January of 2014. That summer, before ever playing a down for Oklahoma, Mixon was caught on video punching a female student. He was suspended for the entirety of the 2014 season as a result, and he did not publicly speak about the assault until after the video was released in December of 2016.

Mixon returned to the field in 2015 and made an immediate impact. In 25 games as an Oklahoma Sooner, Mixon tallied 2,052 rushing yards (an average of 82.1 per game) and scored 25 total touchdowns, nine of those coming on receptions. He caught 65 passes in his two seasons at Oklahoma, and he was extremely difficult to bring down in the open field after making those receptions.

Whereas Samaje Perine is a vintage player — a throwback to bruising ‘three yards and a cloud of dust’ running backs of yore — Joe Mixon is a prototypical back for the modern game. More than ever in the NFL, running backs are expected to be able to catch the ball in addition to their rushing and pass-blocking duties.

If Mixon slips past the second or third round, controversy and all, he may be considered a value pick by some draft analysts. In fact, there are some who believe that Mixon is the best back in this draft class.

OU Pro Day Results

40-yard dash: 4.43 seconds

Vertical: 35 inches

Bench press: 21 reps

Broad jump: 118 inches

3-cone drill: 6.96 seconds

Since Mixon wasn’t invited to the NFL Combine, these stats are taken from Oklahoma’s Pro Day. While stats like his vertical can be trusted, the 40-yard dash time, for example, should definitely be taken with a grain of salt.

Mixon reminds me of Pittsburgh Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell. Bell’s measurables are eerily similar to Mixon’s — they’re almost exactly the same height and weight (both around 6’1”, 225 lbs.), graded out similarly in combine drills, and were utilized the same way in college.

To my disappointment, I’m not the first person to make this connection. This video shows the comparison well:

While Bell is better at leveraging his body to get where he wants to go, Mixon definitely seems faster laterally and in north-south running.

The biggest overlap is in their pass-catching ability. Bell, who’s probably the best running back in the NFL, has made it fashionable for teams to employ pass-catching running backs — even if that means leaving a ‘better’ running back on the sidelines for at least a few downs every possession. David Johnson is another great example of a tall and fast pass-catching back.

I mean, seriously, how many running backs on any level can make one-handers look this easy? Remember, Baker Mayfield throws the ball hard:

With Mixon, a coach doesn’t have to choose between a traditional three-down back or a pass-catching back. Why do that when you have both? The playbook is effectively expanded, making it tough on the defense to scheme around.

His Sugar Bowl highlight reel is probably the best showcase of his all-around skill set:

With easy comparisons made to David Johnson and Le’Veon Bell, it’s clear Mixon is a first-round talent. For fear of character issues and PR repercussions, there will certainly be NFL teams who decide to take a less talented player over Mixon when the time comes.

However, it only takes one. For that reason, I wouldn’t be surprised if he went late in the 1st Round.

Draft projections

Will Mixon go in the 1st Round, or is there a chance he could drop out of the top three rounds entirely?