The Cincinnati Bengals should look like a completely different team in 2020 after selecting Joe Burrow first overall in the NFL draft. Burrow will benefit from what should be a surprisingly high-end receiving corps featuring A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, and second-round pick Tee Higgins. The uptick in passing production in Cincy should enable Joe Mixon to face fewer stacked boxes in 2020 as well as find his way to the red zone more often – could that make him a borderline first-round pick at running back?
Throwback to when Joe Mixon dribbled Josh Norman like a basketball pic.twitter.com/1mYjZ6U5PP
— Blake Jewell (@bjewell43_) May 19, 2020
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Despite playing for a 2-14 team and in the offense that generated just the 30th-most points per game in the league, Mixon came within seventy yards of finishing as a top-12 running back in PPR leagues. Mixon saw a career-high 278 carries and managed to stay above four yards-per-carry despite the Bengals’ offensive line struggling all season. The former Oklahoma RB is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and he will hope that this solid season of production will earn him an impressive long-term extension.
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The Bengals only ran the ball the 25th-most times in the NFL last season, which should increase slightly with a more efficient defense in place this year. This production would be solid enough to make Mixon the 16th-best RB on the season, according to my season-long projections. The most significant area where Mixon could boost his fantasy production is in the receiving game. I have him increasing his touchdown count from 5 to 8 on an offense that should visit the red-zone more frequently.
ADP: 12.4, Late 1st/Early 2nd Round
Auction Price: $25
Mixon’s ADP is going to mean that he won’t be on a lot of my fantasy rosters this season. I don’t have a problem with the player or situation, as we’ll get into shortly, but at the back of the first round, you’re likely taking Mixon ahead of guys like Aaron Jones, Nick Chubb, Chris Carson, and Miles Sanders, all of whom I have ranked higher than the Bengals’ RB. Some fantasy owners will potentially even select him ahead of Dalvin Cook or Derrick Henry, which would be a mistake in my eyes.
Following a rookie season in which he only starter in seven games, Joe Mixon has rushed for over 1,100 yards in each of the past two seasons. I can’t imagine there is a scenario where he plays in 16 games and doesn’t repeat that for the third-straight year, especially given the improved talent on both sides of the ball. Along with 1,100 yards, he should be good for at least eight all-purpose touchdowns and 35 receptions, which puts him firmly in the RB2 camp as far as baseline goes. The Bengals didn’t make any moves to bring in talent to support Mixon in the backfield, and Giovani Bernard doesn’t concern me in terms of stealing anything other than passing-game work. Mixon is the definite starter on what should be an improved team, and you’re getting a locked-in top-20 running back with him.
Players to avoid at their current ADPs
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) May 21, 2020
For Joe Mixon to unlock his fantasy football ceiling, a few things have to go right. Joe Burrow has to excel in his rookie season and quickly pick up Zac Taylor’s system, putting the offense in the red-zone frequently. If that happens, we shouldn’t be surprised to see 12-14 all-purpose touchdowns. Mixon also has to make significant strides in the passing game. His career-high in receptions came in 2018 with 43, but he’s no slouch in that regard with a career 8.1 yards-per-reception and 80.6% catch rate. If his target share ticks up a touch and he can grab 50+ catches along with his rushing yardage and touchdowns, he could arrive near top-five running back value. I’m just concerned that his current draft range is much closer to his ceiling than his floor.
Cincinnati Bengals Offense
It’s difficult to glean any useful information from the woeful display the Bengals put forth offensively last season. Other than Mixon, the only consistent offensive performer in Cincinnatti was Tyler Boyd – he picked up 90 receptions for 1,046 yards and five touchdowns. This offensive unit should look completely different under Year 2 of Zac Taylor, though, as A.J. Green makes his long-awaited return at WR and Joe Burrow debuts at QB after a historic Heisman campaign at LSU. There is no clear pass-catching tight end on the roster – C.J. Uzomah has never had more than 43 receptions – which should mean plenty of 3-wide and even 4-wide sets this season. The Bengals ranked 6th in passing attempts and 25th in rushing attempts last season, which should equalize somewhat as the defense improves, and Taylor looks to keep unnecessary pressure off Burrow. There are a ton of factors that have a wide range of outcomes with this offense, and it will be interesting to see how things play out for this team.
Strength of Schedule
Unfortunately for Joe Mixon, the Bengals will take on the Steelers and Ravens each twice, both of whom finished as top-5 defenses last year in terms of fantasy points allowed to running backs. The third team they play twice in the AFC North, the Browns, finished 23rd in that metric – this should be an easier matchup. The Bengals play a handful of other bottom-ten defenses against fantasy RBs – the Chargers (24th), Jaguars (31st), Redskins (30th), Dolphins (26th), and Texans (28th) should all present remarkable opportunities for Mixon to produce. Other opponents slated throughout the year in the Eagles, Colts, Titans, and Cowboys will provide more middle-of-the-pack opposition. Still, overall this schedule doesn’t seem to be overly prohibitive in regards to Mixon’s potential for fantasy success.
Joe Mixon could hold out this season as he’s entering the final year of his rookie contract, and his contract status will be worth keeping an eye on as the offseason progresses. There’s a chance talks of a holdout depress his ADP, but as a current back-end first-round pick, I’m not thrilled about Mixon as a fantasy asset. I want my first-round pick to be a locked-in top-five player at his respective position with little if any downside – difficult, to be sure – and there are just too many factors at play with Mixon. If he drops into the second or even third round, I’ll be more intrigued.
Joe Mixon was the RB #6 last year from week 8 onwards, however, he has faced inconsistency throughout his career and he is still running behind a porous offensive line. Gio Bernard also figures to stay involved in the passing game. Is Joe Worth the 1st round capital? #NFLTwitter pic.twitter.com/xjlZOqlF02
— Fantasy Football Bots (@FFBots) May 15, 2020
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