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Joe Mixon ranked as a top-10 RB by ESPN

ESPN actually gave some love to the Bengals.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Joe Mixon has become one of the NFL’s best young running backs, and people outside Cincinnati are starting to take notice.

In ESPN’s ranking of the NFL’s top 10 running backs, Mixon came in at No. 8. The ranking was made using input from 50 league executives, coaches, scouts, and players. His highest ranking was fourth overall, while his lowest was 14th

Mixon was the Bengals’ best player in the second half of 2019, rushing for 817 yards and five scores over the final eight games. A few execs compared his build to Saquon’s, without the same explosion.

“Underrated, and the O-line is not doing him any favors,” said a veteran NFL linebacker. “An all-around guy, catching screens and flare routes, big guy for DBs to take down. Power and balance, run people over and make people miss. Reminds me of Marshawn [Lynch], but not as wide. Super quick.”

Mixon produced 29 carries of 10 or more yards, eighth in the NFL. Like Henry and Chubb, he gets knocked for a lack of production in the passing game — “Isn’t a sudden, make-you-miss guy off the pass,” one coordinator said — but don’t be surprised if the Bengals use him more in that area.

It’s good to see Mixon finally getting some national respect after what he’s accomplished over his first three years in the NFL. He ran for 2,305 yards and 13 scores over the last two seasons while averaging 4.5 yards per rush, despite playing behind what was one of the league’s worst offensive lines in each of the last two seasons. He also became the first Bengals running back to lead the AFC in rushing during the 2018 season.

All of this is why it’s going to be challenging for the Bengals to reach a long-term extension with Mixon, who is currently slated to hit free agency next year. The hope is he’s extended before the 2020 season begins and gets to play alongside No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow for the foreseeable future.