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Sam’s Film Room: Joe Mixon has first round talent, but is he worth the risk?

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Auburn vs Oklahoma Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

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Morality or football potential? This is the question general managers will face in evaluating the prospect of drafting Joe Mixon this year. A former five-star, all-purpose back in the 2014 recruiting class, Mixon chose Oklahoma over Wisconsin, Cal, and UCLA. As a freshman, he was involved in an assault case where a security camera captured him punching a female in the face causing her to be hospitalized. The altercation got him suspended for the entire 2014 season.

Three years later, Mixon is looking to hear his name called in the draft, a moment that many feel he does not deserve.

As a football player, Mixon is a true three-down back with the acceleration, power, and receiving ability to compete at the next level. While he wasn’t invited to the combine, he ran a 4.50 40-yard dash at his pro day. Looking at him solely as a football player, I gave him a late first round grade.

One big negative of his game is that he shows average vision and misses cutback lanes being way too patient on stretch runs to the edge. He is constantly looking to hit the sideline instead of taking the dirty play.

In addition to his three-down running back potential, he also has kick return experience and returned a kickoff for a touchdown in 2016 against Ohio State. After watching his tape, I don’t think he should return punts in the NFL due to his decision-making at times, but in my opinion, he should get reps as a kick returner.

From a pro comparison standpoint, I think Le’Veon Bell from the Pittsburgh Steelers fits Mixon the best in my opinion. Both backs are roughly the same size with power and quick feet. They both have a great burst and continuously churn yards when given holes in the defense. While Bell is certainly a lofty projection with a very unique running style, the physical skill-sets are similar.

While the Seattle Seahawks signed Eddie Lacy this offseason, it was only a one-year deal. Mixon clearly has the talent to be an immediate asset in Darrell Bevell’s offense. Now several teams, like the New England Patriots, have already announced they have removed him from their draft board. A team like the Kansas City Chiefs, who released Jamaal Charles this offseason could be interested in him if he falls to one of their selections. They have a definite need at running back and have already chosen someone with a similar incident just last year in Tyreek Hill.

Besides the Seahawks and Chiefs, a team like the Washington Redskins, Detroit Lions, or even the Carolina Panthers in the second round could be a good fit for his skill-set. Teams will look to find that balance of “person & athlete” with Mixon and must make the decision they are set to live with for as long as he’s on the roster, and perhaps for some time after. While I think he will fall out of the first round, I don’t think he’ll fall into Day 3 territory.

What is the earliest round pick you would spend on him if you were a GM?