Joe Mixon is always going to be criticized in this day and age. And it has more to do with how running backs are viewed than his individual play. The idea is that the value running backs provide on the field is, to a large degree, replaceable, so it is unwise to pay handsomely for them.
Yes. If the Bengals win the Super Bowl, Joe Mixon will be the highest-paid RB to ever win a Super Bowl. https://t.co/Q01llGjGWG— Marcus Mosher (@Marcus_Mosher) February 9, 2022
That, of course, probably scares people like Michael Salfino, who writes for fivethirtyeight.com, the Wall Street Journal, and The Athletic. He argued that Samaje Perine (who, it should be said, holds a special place in my heart) has been as good or better than Mixon. To be kind, I will attribute his ridiculous take to fear.
We have to accept Mixon is not a good running back. Journeyman Perine has been just as good, if not slightly better. https://t.co/BbWZxFsyjb— Michael Salfino (@MichaelSalfino) February 9, 2022
Essentially, as you can see in the Twitter thread above, Salfino argues that, over the last two seasons, Mixon has averaged fewer yards per carry than other Bengals running backs. After receiving pushback from others, Salfino doubles, triples, and quadruples down by arguing that:
- Perine’s average is not boosted by running on third and long
"Perine runs on third and long!" Nah. This is ALWAYS wrong with the third-down/backups. He has six carries all year on third and five-or-more to go and has 10 yards -- 1.67 per carry. Not helping him, kids! https://t.co/Y4HQiAUbOM— Michael Salfino (@MichaelSalfino) February 9, 2022
- Mixon’s average on first and 10 is worse than the other Bengals running backs
I can do this all day! 2020-21 first and 10 only, RBs only:— Michael Salfino (@MichaelSalfino) February 9, 2022
Mixon: 4.55 per carry
All Cincy Backs: 4.54 per carry.
- Observations from actually watching the games should not be taken into consideration
This is where we get in trouble. Our eyes are LIARS!!! https://t.co/IKh0IwyD6t— Michael Salfino (@MichaelSalfino) February 9, 2022
Salfino, of course, didn’t stop there. He also insisted that variance is not a factor and that Pro Football Focus grades are subjective. Rather, the quality of Mixon’s play should solely be measured by how his yards per carry stack up with those of the other running backs on the team.
I love how YPC gets trashed when there is nothing better. I said Mixon's rushing grade by PFF's measure was good. But that's subjective. If you're good, it should show in YPC, especially relative to the team's other RBs. It's like saying a guy is good hitter when his OPS is meh. https://t.co/ZvIPlMCdtk— Michael Salfino (@MichaelSalfino) February 9, 2022
Now, where did this take come from? Perhaps the answer can be found in yet another tweet of his.
Mixon isn't bad. He just isn't good. If Mixon got hurt and Perine got all his touches, no change in fantasy ranking. In fact, given he's a third-down receiver, probably an upgrade. But fine: push. So you're telling me if you stipulate this that Mixon is good?— Michael Salfino (@MichaelSalfino) February 9, 2022
Salfino, like so many others, is judging players based on their projected contributions in fantasy football. He is unwilling to consider Mixon’s actual talent or contributions to winning. This is the natural result of the Bengals only having one primetime game all year and coming out of nowhere in the postseason.
It is unlikely that Salfino would feel the need to target a higher profile running back in the same way. As Joe Goodberry pointed out, based on Salfino’s logic, one would have to conclude that Derrick Henry is not a good back, something Salfino would never do.
Titans backups RBs averaged 4.5 yards per carry. Derrick Henry must not be good with his 4.3 yards per carry.— Goodbrrrrr (@JoeGoodberry) February 9, 2022
But for people like Salfino, the Bengals are frustrating. They make all of the preseason projections—even when bolstered by fancy charts and graphs—look silly. They are a well-disciplined football team that seems to always rise to the moment. And that doesn’t add up to a lot of fantasy football points. It is for this reason that Joe Burrow was doubted up until the AFC Championship Game. And now it’s Mixon’s turn to hear some nonsense.
We discussed the disrespect directed at Mixon in our Super Bowl preview:
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