Oklahoma Pro Day is taking place on Wednesday and the Bengals will be in attendance. The team also reportedly met with talented but controversial running back Joe Mixon on Tuesday night in advance of the Sooners’ pro day.
Oklahoma's Joe Mixon not lacking for suitors. Lions, Saints, Bengals and Browns all met w/ him privately tonight before tomorrow's Pro Day.— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) March 8, 2017
I was told the Bengals would visit /Mixon at some point. They want to get more info since they didn't talk to him at the Combine.— Katherine Terrell (@Kat_Terrell) March 8, 2017
Mixon was not invited to the NFL Combine because he punched a female student at Oklahoma back in 2014, his freshman year.
In retaliation after some name calling and the same female pushing him, Mixon violently punched the girl, throwing her to the floor and causing four fractured bones in her face. She needed to undergo an eight hour surgery, including having her jaw wired, to repair the damage. Mixon was suspended for the entire 2014 season as a result but returned to the Sooners in 2015. In December, more than two years after the incident, video was released of the punch, which heightened awareness and outrage.
Beyond that, in November 2016 a confrontation with a parking lot attendant caused Mixon to be suspended for one game. He is said to have torn up a parking ticket in front of the parking attendant, and then threw it on the ground. So the violence from back in 2014 isn’t the only red flag on his record, though, it’s by far the most significant.
Mixon has apologized for the punch but the damage cannot be undone and footage of the punch will not go away. "It's never, never OK to retaliate and hit a woman the way I did," Mixon said in a formal apology. "I'm here to apologize to everybody that was affected."
If not for the 2014 incident, Mixon would likely be a first round pick in this year's NFL Draft. He's a highly talented football player and recorded a 6.7 yard per attempt rushing average in 2015 and 6.8 yard average in 2016. Comparatively, Leonard Fournette's average yards per attempt in both of the last two seasons is 6.5 yards. Fournette is expected to be the first running back selected this year and a top 10 draft pick.
In 2015, Mixon rushed for 753 yards and 7 scores on 113 attempts and added 356 yards and 4 touchdowns through the air. Last season, he recorded 1,274 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 187 attempts and added 538 yards and 5 touchdowns in the passing game.
Because he wasn’t invited to the Combine, Mixon didn’t get to go through team interviews, the Combine medical process or the drills that his fellow draft-eligible running backs went through. That’s why teams like the Bengals, Lions, Saints and Browns went out of their way to meet with Mixon on Tuesday night. Teams need to do their due diligence and vet Mixon, especially considering his past. Teams may even try to anger Mixon in interviews to see how he reacts and if his temperament is an issue.
Just because the Bengals met with Mixon at OU doesn’t mean the team will be interested in drafting him, but, it’s relevant to note as draft season continues.