NFL

Bengals Star Joe Mixon Has Become the NFL’s Most Underrated Running Back

Joe Mixon entered the NFL with plenty of questions about his character and potential.

Through three seasons, Mixon has left those questions beyond him in style. A star running back who had legal issues at Oklahoma, Mixon has quietly grown into an underrated star for the Cincinnati Bengals — and a player only in the news for the right reasons.

Christian McCaffrey and Ezekiel Elliott rightfully get all of the attention, but Mixon is near the top of the league’s best running backs.

Joe Mixon had a productive but controversial stint at Oklahoma

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A high school All-American running back from Oakley, Calif., Mixon signed with the Oklahoma Sooners out of high school.

Mixon had an explosive two years alongside Baker Mayfield, running for 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns on 6.8 yards per carry. The dangerous running back also caught 65 passes for 894 yards and nine touchdowns.

Mixon earned first-team All-Big 12 honors after his redshirt sophomore season in 2016, his last year in Norman.

Mixon only played two seasons, though, because the Sooners suspended him for the 2014 season. He entered a plea deal in October 2014 after he punched a woman in the face that July.

Mixon told police the woman’s friend had directed a racial slur at him. He then responded with a homophobic slur, according to ESPN.

Mixon received a one-year deferred sentence, an order to undergo counseling, and 100 hours of community service. He apologized to the woman in April 2017, days before the Bengals used a second-round pick on him.

Mixon quietly has become a terrific running back

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The partnership between Joe Mixon and the Cincinnati Bengals has paid off so far, even if the team hasn’t made the playoffs since 2015.

Mixon only averaged 3.5 yards per carry as a rookie when he ran for 626 yards and four touchdowns.

Over the last two years, though, the 6-foot-1, 220-pound Mixon has been an elite running back. Mixon totaled 2,305 yards and 13 touchdowns on 4.5 yards per attempt; he’s also caught 78 passes for 583 yards and four touchdowns in that span.

Now, Mixon and No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow are the faces of the Bengals. It’s on the duo to finally bring a postseason victory back to Cincinnati.

How good will Joe Mixon be in 2020?

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The 2020 season is a crucial year for Joe Mixon. As of August 8, the Bengals still haven’t signed their explosive running back to a long-term deal.

Mixon will be a free agent after the season. Given his age — he doesn’t turn 25 until July 2021 — and his prior success, he could make significant money next offseason.

Cincinnati would be wise to re-sign Mixon. He’s grown into a terrific player and he’s avoided any legal issues or negative public relations incidents since entering the NFL.

Cincinnati could have an extremely underrated offense this season if Burrow plays competently as a rookie. A.J. Green is still around at receiver and the Bengals drafted Clemson star receiver Tee Higgins in the second round.

Even if the Bengals finish out of the playoffs again, all eyes will be on Mixon. With another excellent season, he’s due for a big contract that could earn him some well-deserved attention in the process.