Are You Undervaluing Joe Mixon in 2019 Fantasy Football?

Are You Undervaluing Joe Mixon in 2019 Fantasy Football? article feature image

Kareem Elgazzar/The Cincinnati Enquirer-USA TODAY NETWORK. Pictured: Joe Mixon

  • Joe Mixon received a rare three-down workload from the Bengals last season, making him a tremendous fantasy football asset.
  • Will he inherit a similar role in 2019? How high should he go in your draft?

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The three-down workhorse back is a dying breed in today’s NFL. Plenty of running backs still theoretically have the ability to effectively function as a rusher, receiver and blocker, but multi-back committees have taken over a lot of offenses.

Only seven running backs managed to total at least 200 carries and 50 targets in 2018:

  • Ezekiel Elliott
  • Saquon Barkley
  • David Johnson
  • Todd Gurley
  • Christian McCaffrey
  • James Conner
  • Joe Mixon

Mixon will be the focus of our discussion here as we explore how his potential status as a featured three-down back in an underrated offense makes him one of fantasy football’s best values.

Bengals Used Joe Mixon as a Bell-Cow Back in 2018

It’s been a long time since the Bengals have allowed any single running back to dominate backfield snaps. Still, this was the case in 2018 with Mixon working well ahead of Giovani Bernard in all nine of their games together.

Joe Mixon snap percentages in nine full games with Giovani Bernard in 2018:

Week 1: 79% snaps
Week 10: 67%
Week 11: 62%
Week 12: 72%
Week 13: 57%
Week 14: 70%
Week 15: 65%
Week 16: 81%
Week 17: 65%

Average touches per game: 19.8

— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) May 4, 2019

Mixon (280 touches) became the first Bengals running back to surpass even 250 combined receptions and carries in a season since Berjarvus Green-Ellis back in 2012. Better injury luck would’ve helped Mixon join the league’s increasingly sparse 300-touch club.

Mixon’s production was particularly intriguing because of his ability to create explosive plays on the ground. Bengals games regularly featured multiple occurrences of their featured back breaking loose into the secondary.

  • Ezekiel Elliott (25 carries of 15-plus yards)
  • Mixon (23)
  • Saquon Barkley (20)
  • Chris Carson (17)
  • Todd Gurley (17)
  • James Conner (16)

Overall, Mixon increased his average yards per touch from 4.4 to 5.2 from 2017 to 2018. There’s little reason for the Bengals to consider reducing Mixon’s workload in 2019 because…

Mixon Is One of the NFL’s Freakier Running Back Prospects

The only thing that’s held Mixon back during his football career is off-field issues. He was viewed by many as the No. 1 running back recruit out of high school before continuing to dominate the competition at Oklahoma.

Mixon will be 23 years old by Week 1. He’s quietly one of the position’s bigger starters at 6-foot-1 and 228 pounds. Still, Mixon has an innate ability to make defenders look silly in the open field before inevitably sprinting past them.

Joe Mixon ranks in Weeks 5-17 last season after returning from injury …

Rush attempts: 5th among all RBs
Targets: 13th
Touches: 5th
PPR: RB6 (behind CMC, Barkley, Gurley, Zeke, Kamara)

— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) May 4, 2019

Running backs selected within the top 100 picks have easily produced more elite fantasy seasons than backs drafted in the later rounds. The Bengals’ decision to draft Mixon with the 48th overall pick in 2017 speaks to how much they value his services. Their decision to spend sixth-round picks on running backs Trayveon Williams and Rodney Anderson 2019 is likely more indicative of their desire to replace former No. 3 back Mark Walton than concern surrounding Mixon’s ability to function as a high-volume back.

Mixon was a highly-productive back in fantasy football last season and is positioned for success again thanks to Cincinnati’s sneaky-good supporting cast.

This Bengals Offense Could Be Better Than People Think

It’s tough to find any optimism in a 6-10 season, but the Bengals should take some solace in the fact that their offense was performing at a high level over the first half of 2018.

Bengals in Weeks 1-8 last season before half their team got hurt:

27.6 PPG (10th)
Andy Dalton was the overall QB14
Joe Mixon missed two games but was the RB8 in PPR per game
A.J. Green PPR WR8
Tyler Boyd PPR WR12

— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) April 2, 2019

Season-ending injuries to both Andy Dalton and A.J. Green made it virtually impossible for the Bengals to keep the ship afloat during the second half. Their offensive line also wasn’t spared, limping to No. 22 and No. 19 respective finishes in Football Outsiders‘ adjusted line yards per rush and adjusted sack rate.

The Bengals did their best to bolster the big uglies up front this offseason, selecting Alabama offensive tackle Jonah Williams with the No. 11 overall pick and later grabbing Ohio State guard Michael Jordan in the fourth round. They also brought in John Miller from the Bills on a multi-year deal and extended right tackle Bobby Hart.

New head coach Zac Taylor experienced first hand with the Rams how adding additional targets to a running back’s workload can help spark their entire game.

We’ve seen Mixon flash extraordinary talent as a true receiver…

…but he’s ultimately failed to clear even 300 receiving yards in a season to this point.

General improvement, as well as a bit better injury luck, could help Mixon take a leap from a top-10 to a top-five fantasy running back sooner than later.

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