With Mixon’s background, many teams reportedly had him off their big boards completely, though it’s impossible to know if that’s actually the truth. One fact we do know is the Bengals did everything possible to properly vet Mixon before spending a second-round pick on him.
That included running backs coach Kyle Caskey spending nearly a week with Mixon prior to the draft. That’s a level of commitment few teams will show with any prospect, let alone a guy widely expected to be drafted in Round 2, if not later.
But the Bengals believed Mixon could be a game-changing player while also being a good guy off the field. That sentiment wasn’t shared nationally, but as the old saying goes, it only takes one team to fall in love with you.
Based on all of the work the Bengals did vetting Mixon, you can tell they love him and then some. Marvin Lewis also seems to be in love with the potential his young rookie has.
In an interview with Sirius XM (via NFL.com), Lewis defended the Bengals selecting Mixon so high when his prior issues were bad enough that teams were taking the talented runner off their boards. Many talking heads wanted to write this off as the Bengals simply taking a talented player with character concerns and hoping he worked out.
Not so with Mixon. Lewis and the Bengals truly believe he’s moved past his issues and is ready to thrive in the NFL.
"A lot of time, a lot of research," Lewis said of the Bengals vetting Mixon. "Time spent with Joe. Time researching people around Joe. Joe's past in East Bay [California]. All those kinds of things that way. His past on campus at Oklahoma since the incident.
“So, there couldn't be any other red flags to say, 'Well, well, maybe...' No, no, no. It had to be clean, and Joe knows that. He knows going forward, it has to stay clean all the time. He's lived on the tip of the sword for three years now, and he's got to continue to probably for the rest of his life."
There isn’t a lot Mixon can’t do as an offensive weapon. He can make game-breaking runs between and outside the tackles while also gashing defenses as a very polished pass-catcher. That means, if he is playing up to his potential, there are so many new things the Bengals can do with the offense to keep opposing defenses on their toes and opposing offenses off the field.
That excites Lewis.
"He's off the charts talent-wise," Lewis said. "Big, fast, catch, run, see, smart -- and he's a 20-year-old kid. He's as smart as a whip. You know, I mean, those things are fun. And I keep reminding everybody, he's a 20-year-old kid. Keep understanding that. Let Joe continue to grow and develop as we go."
It’s now time to allow Mixon to show he’s a different person now that he’s in the NFL with a stronger support system around him. It’s very early in what hopes to be a long career for Mixon, but so far so good heading into his rookie season.