Of the hundreds of eligible players in this year’s NFL Draft, there isn’t a more controversial prospect than Oklahoma’s Joe Mixon. The running back who is a surefire first-round talent on the football field, having drawn comparisons to both Le’Veon Bell and David Johnson, is right there with LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Florida State’s Dalvin Cook at the top of his class.
And that’s where the comparisons end.
Mixon has a dark, complicated history of off-field transgressions. The lesser of his two legal run-ins was an incident where he confronted and tried to intimidate a parking attendant that was attempting to give him a ticket. That incident - which ended in him getting a one-game suspension - came in 2016, two years after the assault that will likely keep him from being drafted in April.
He assaulted a female in 2014 at a campus restaurant, which resulted in a year-long suspension and community service for him, and surgery for the victim to repair broken bones in her face. It’s a horrible, disgusting act that cost Mixon a year of his college career and millions of dollars on his eventual rookie-scale contract (if he does land with a team).
As sad as it is, Mixon was probably still on his way to being a day-one or day-two pick when he eventually declared, until the video of the incident came out in late 2016. Despite the NFL’s posturing as a league with no tolerance for domestic violence, we still continue to see players come out of these situations relatively unscathed. A one game suspension here, four games here; only one NFL player with a history of domestic violence has been completely blackballed from the league following domestic violence charges. And, even then, Ray Rice was set to serve only a two-game suspension for knocking out his then-fiance in an elevator before the video of his incident came into the public eye.
Mixon, like Rice, has video evidence of his domestic violence incident out there for the public to see, and it could cost him his chance at a career in the NFL. It’s something he’s going to have to answer to for the rest of his life, and it’s something the owner, coach and general manager of any team that drafts him (or signs him as a rookie free agent) will have to answer to as well. His domestic violence history and his on-field talent have made him a touchy, yet fascinating subject during the pre-draft process. His talent is clear, but will any team take a chance?
NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks broached this subject on a recent episode of the Move The Sticks podcast. Jeremiah noted that the Seattle Seahawks were one of two teams brought up by friends inside organizations around the league when asked about potential landing spots for Mixon - with the other being the Dallas Cowboys. The reasoning given to him was that they’ve already been through the backlash and criticism once, following Frank Clark’s selection. They have a foundation to say, “We took a chance on a player with a troubled past before, and he’s been a model citizen since arriving in Seattle.”
While I absolutely oppose the Seahawks - or any team, for that matter - giving Mixon a chance, the reasoning does make sense. It’s a stable organization with strong leadership from the very top down to the bottom, and like Jeremiah noted it wouldn’t be the first time they’ve selected a player with a history of domestic violence. Assuming that Pete Carroll and John Schneider felt comfortable with the due diligence done on Mixon - and if Paul Allen signed off on the move - then I do believe that they’d be comfortable adding a player with Mixon’s complicated past into a locker room with so many strong leaders and voices.
It’s a decision that will likely not have to come until after the draft’s completion, with Mixon almost certainly set to go undrafted, and hopefully the team has learned their lesson and won’t make the decision to give him a chance at all.