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2017 Bengals Bold Predictions: Joe Mixon finishes season as third string running back

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While we hope this bold prediction is untrue, it’s bold for a reason.

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Auburn v Oklahoma Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images

On the field, Joe Mixon is truly an elite talent as a running back. For the Oklahoma Sooners, he displayed great vision finding open running lanes, and possessed an innate ability to make would-be tacklers miss. He couples his blazing speed with his 6-foot-1, 228 pound size to create a complete three-down running back who is also a very good receiver out of the backfield. But thanks to an off-field incident several years ago, Mixon fell out of the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft, and all the way down to the Bengals in the latter part of the second round.

Regardless of what happened off-the-field in college, Mixon is one of the best running back prospects to be drafted since fellow Oklahoma Sooner Adrian Peterson was selected a decade prior.

With such a great running back talent landing on a team that has struggled at the position, the general consensus is that Mixon will take over as the top running back for the Bengals and lead the team in the various running back categories, such as rushes, yards and touchdowns. But when 2017 ends, per this bold prediction, Mixon will not be the team leader in these categories, or even second, but will finish as the Bengals’ third running back.

For a prediction to qualify as a Bold Prediction, it must satisfy two criteria. First, it must be something that goes against the mainstream. Second, it must be something that is likely with a reasonable chance of occurring. Does this bold prediction meet the criteria?

Why this prediction is BOLD:

As was mentioned above, Mixon is truly elite as a running back prospect. What he brings to the table easily dwarfs what Giovani Bernard and Jeremy Hill brought to the team as prospects when they were drafted. Hill has been very ineffective during the past two seasons, only averaging 816 yards per season on a very pedestrian 3.7 yards per carry average. Bernard has fared only slightly better, averaging 3.7 yards last season. He is also coming off a season-ending ACL surgery, which marks the second time in three seasons that he has missed at least three games due to injury. All these signs surely point to Mixon stepping in and easily taking over as the Bengals’ most productive running back, right? And, if the team’s second round pick finishes as the third string running back, that can’t be a good sign.

Why this prediction is LIKELY:

Loyalty. The main reason this prediction is likely is because the Bengals are loyal to their veterans, handing them plenty of playing time, sometimes without regard to how it diminishes the team’s production on-the-field. Just look at Robert Geathers starting over Carlos Dunlap, or Domata Peko and Rey Maualuga’s continued roles as starters (up until this season). Even look at Mike Nugent’s lengthy stay in Cincinnati, even after missing kicks that cost the Bengals victories.

In Bernard’s rookie season of 2013 he was clearly the best running back in a tandem that included him and BenJarvus Green-Ellis. But despite the “lawfirm’s” 3.4 yards per carry average and four measly receptions (on eight targets), the Bengals continued to bench Bernard in favor of the veteran, even giving Green-Ellis all 16 starts that season, and 50 more rushes.

Fast-forward to Jeremy Hill’s rookie season, when he broke out for 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns on a whopping 5.1 yards per carry average. Despite Hill’s dominating second half, he still couldn’t pull away from Bernard, who was having a mediocre season. The Bengals limited Hill’s involvement in the offense, giving Bernard a big share of the workload that season.

In 2017 we fast-forward to Mixon’s rookie season. If history has told us anything, it’s that the team is going to continue to get the ball to its veterans, who, in this case, are Hill and Bernard. Mixon will be involved in the offense, but to think that he is going to “run away” with the title as the most productive running back in Cincinnati this year would stand in opposition to everything that head coach Marvin Lewis stands for. I fully expect Mixon to be the most “efficient” running back this year, generating the most yards per touch, but the volume just won’t be there for him to lead the team in any running back categories.

Poll

Joe Mixon’s 2017 production will...

This poll is closed

  • 72%
    Lead the Bengals running backs
    (1347 votes)
  • 21%
    Put him somewhere between Hill and Bernard
    (402 votes)
  • 5%
    Finish behind both Hill and Bernard
    (101 votes)
1850 votes total Vote Now