The RotoViz Running Back Prospect Sweet 16 Tournament matches the top incoming prospects in a head-to-head March Madness style format. Various RotoViz writers break down each match-up with the winner moving on to the next round.
(4) Joe Mixon vs (13) Aaron Jones
Mixon is one of the most polarizing players in the entire draft class. His talent is revered by the film community, but it comes with a disgusting video of him hitting a female while attending Oklahoma. After not being invited to the Combine, he ran a 4.43 at his Pro Day.
Jones is a prolific collegiate producer, albeit against weaker competition. His forty time wasn’t anything to write home about, but he posted an 11.02 agility score. Both of these players averaged over 100 rushing yards, two receptions, and 6.5 yards per carry in their final seasons.
Matthew Freedman – Joe Mixon: I’m not a fan of Mixon because of his off-field issues — but he’s big, young, athletic, productive, and capable of catching passes. He’s a three-down workhorse with Le’Veon-lite potential — and he’ll likely be available at a discount in rookie drafts because of his issues. As a result, he probably offers the most value in the 2017 class.
Anthony Amico – Aaron Jones: Jones was remarkably productive while at UTEP, averaging 7.7 YPC in his final season and catching 28 passes. At the Combine, he showed impressive agility and explosion. While Mixon probably does present some value in the actual NFL Draft, I question the fact that he failed to separate from Samaje Perine while at Oklahoma, producing pedestrian market share of rushing yard numbers. Couple that with the off-field stuff, and I think Jones is the winner here.
Blair Andrews – Aaron Jones: Mixon’s on-field resume doesn’t live up to the hype surrounding his talent. He never accounted for more than half of his team’s non-QB rushing yards or rushing touchdowns. True, his 6.8 YPC puts him in the top 25 in the FBS. And he produced as a receiver, catching just over three passes per game. But Aaron Jones’ 7.7 YPC ranks sixth best in the FBS (fourth if you filter out players with fewer than 100 carries). Jones was responsible for more than 80 percent of UTEP’s rushing production. And he wasn’t too bad as a pass catcher either, hauling in about 2.3 receptions per game. In other words, I prefer the much cheaper Jones regardless of Mixon’s off-field issues.
Matt Wispe – Joe Mixon: Mixon’s off-field issues concern me with regards to his actual NFL draft stock and possible workload concerns, but he showed great athleticism at his Pro Day and produced at a high level despite playing alongside a fellow NFL draft prospect. Even at his high price, Mixon is one of the highest ceiling prospects in this class
Heith Krueger – Joe Mixon: Mixon’s off-field issues may lead to his draft stock being suppressed and his opportunity possibly being limited, but his on-field prospects are simply unmatched. He’s essentially an Ezekiel Elliot clone physically: six feet one inch and 226 pounds, 6.8 yards per carry in his college career, 4.48 forty, 35-inch vertical jump, and a 7.00 second 3-cone. Aaron Jones is an intriguing prospect but simply not in Mixon’s league.
Jordan Hoover – Joe Mixon: If you’re willing to set aside Mixon’s horrendous off-field actions, you’re left with one of the most intriguing RB prospects in recent years. Mixon managed to wrestle work away from Oklahoma’s incumbent starter Perine in 2016, accounting for 41 percent of Oklahoma’s rushing yards. He also averaged 14.5 YPC on 37 receptions, including 5 receiving TDs. Aaron Jones did he best to match suit, accounting for 45 percent of UTEP’s team yards last season. Jones’ combine performance, while respectable, likely did little to improve his draft stock. NFL front offices have shown time and time again a willingness to ignore criminal behavior in favor of the promise of production. Mixon is bigger, younger, possesses tantalizing upside, and will likely be drafted higher than Jones. He moves on.
Scott Smith – Joe Mixon: Finding anyone that is an admitted fan of Mixon is hard. However, off the field concerns may not matter. Based upon early draft rumors, Mixon’s talent will supercede his domestic violence issues and see him getting drafted in the late 2nd to 3rd round range. The totality of Mixon’s talent is hard gauge due to the fact that the sixth-seeded Perine also shared the field with Mixon at Oklahoma. With that said, Mixon may be the best blend of size and catching ability in the draft. Very few RBs are coming into the NFL with true 3-down workhorse skills, and Mixon seems to check those boxes. Jones production and agility scores put him in the range of Matt Forte, but that would be basically hitting the fantasy lottery if that came to fruition.
Shawn Siegele – Aaron Jones: Nick Frost wrote an excellent piece on Jones. It’s crazy that a back who just gained 2,000 yards and posted a 6.82 three-cone at 208 pounds is still sitting at No. 23 in the most recent RSI.
RotoDoc – Aaron Jones: Mixon is a three-down runner and elite pass-catching running back who left after only two years in college. That said, Jones is a more than capable pass-catcher himself, and the discounted value at a position which can be highly landing-spot dependent means these two could have closer early-year careers than we expect (depending on where they each end up).
Jones’ outstanding production and well-rounded skill set made this very close, but ultimately Mixon is the one who will move on to face the winner of D’Onta Foreman and Joe Williams. While Mixon certainly comes with some baggage, his on-field profile is outstanding. There also is a chance that he comes at a discount in drafts due to those issues.
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