Joe Mixon may be one of the biggest boom-or-bust fantasy candidates for the 2018 season.
The potential for Mixon to bust is why he’s on ESPN’s list of fantasy football running backs with red flags heading into 2018. The former Oklahoma Sooner put up respectable numbers as a rookie, but there were enough shortcomings that ESPN is skeptical he can become a good RB2, which is about what his current ADP suggests he’ll be.
Mixon was much better as a receiver (88 percent catch rate, 9.6 YPR) and his rushing efficiency was shaky, at best. Mixon averaged 3.52 YPC (61st out of 72 backs with 50-plus carries), including a 1.72 YAC (44th). That post-contact production was underwhelming but doesn’t quite put him on the spectrum of players we need to be concerned about.
However, if we turn to our friends at PFF, we see that Mixon ranked 49th out of 53 backs in elusive rating, having forced only 21 missed tackles on 208 touches. The fact that Mixon was dealing with injuries and Cincinnati’s awful offensive line -- as well as his age (still 21) and prowess as a receiver -- creates plenty of reason for optimism, but his rookie-season play certainly raises some red flags.
As a second-round rookie out of Oklahoma, Mixon played in 14 games, rushing for 626 yards and four touchdowns. He also caught 30 passes for an additional 287 yards. He really finished the season strong, including a 165 total-yard performance against the Browns.
Entering his second season, it seems like the Bengals are ready to make him the bell-cow back, but while that’s nice to hear, you can only put so much stock into what a team is saying in the offseason before the pads have even come on.
And let’s face it: Giovani Bernard was very effective for stretches in 2017, and he showed he deserves a lot of touches in 2018. The potential to be a split of touches between Mixon and Bernard makes the former even riskier to draft early in fantasy drafts.
This is why drafting Mixon is a very risky proposition. He’ll have big games where he carries your fantasy team like he did against Cleveland, but there’s also potential for him to put up lot of duds in 2018.