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Why Draft Joe Mixon When This RB is Cheaper?

Are you the kind of shopper who happily snaps up the 50-cent savings on the no-name brand? Or even better, the dented can of the brand name item that’s been marked down? Then this is the series for you.

After all, why pay more when you can get the job done for less?

That’s the thinking in using arbitrage in fantasy football, a concept first discussed years ago by the Fantasy Douche.

The idea behind using an arbitrage approach in your fantasy drafting is that you’re looking to keep the same upside, while reducing your risk. – Fantasy Douche

Some of arbitrage plays we talk about will be the next Marvin McNutt, and some will be last year’s Mark Ingram, a player we insisted brought as much upside as many of the backs in front of him. We won’t win them all, but the wins will outweigh the losses when the cost to acquire these players is so much more economical.

Today, we ask — why draft Joe Mixon when this RB is cheaper?

After a poor rookie season, you’d think the perception of Joe Mixon would be that of a guy on the path to becoming a bust.

Volume was not an issue, but this workhorse load only resulted in an RB34 finish, barely ahead of Orleans Darkwa.

That should be cause for concern, or at least a little pause. Quite the opposite. Mixon’s value has instead skyrocketed in the offseason, and he’s being drafted as the 14th RB off the board. I get that the Bengals upgraded their offensive line and Mixon shed a few pounds, but that’s not nearly enough to convince me that he’s suddenly worthy of such a lofty ADP.

Of the 37 RBs who ran for at least 500 yards last year, only six were less efficient than Mixon by fantasy points over expectation (ruFPOE). His mark was tied with 34-year-old Frank Gore.

I’d rather roll the dice on a cheaper option with a similar workload and a more productive history.

Which of these players would you rather own?mixon proj

Player A has a higher low, median, and high historical projection and also happens to be available three to four rounds later.

Houston, We Have a Workhorse

Last year was considered a letdown for Lamar Miller, yet he was better than Mixon across the board.

Miller v Mixon

 

In a down season, Miller had:

  • More carries
  • More rushing yards
  • More targets and more receiving yards
  • Slightly better efficiency as a receiver and runner
  • 33 percent more fantasy points

It wasn’t just last year. The last time Miller finished below the 10 points per game that Mixon posted as a rookie was five years ago.

millerppg

Mixon could increase his per-game output by 33 percent as a sophomore and still fall short of Miller in 2018. Yet somehow, his price is only going up, while Miller’s stock went south this offseason.

Miller v Mixon ADP

Not much has changed for either player since last year, except the fact that Miller’s main competition for touches is recovering from a torn Achilles. D’Onta Foreman remains on the PUP list, and even if he finds the field by mid season, he has a long road to recovery.1

Mixon, meanwhile, still has to contend with Gio Bernard. Dave Caban used the FFDraftPrep machine to project 47 receptions and 224 fantasy points for Mixon, but he concedes that Bernard’s presence may make the projection optimistic.

The lead role in Cincinnati also carries questionable value — their RBs had the fourth-fewest total expected points in 2017.

Until Foreman returns to full health, and we have no idea when that may be, it’s Miller’s backfield in Houston.

The volume gives them a similar floor, but Miller has simply done more with his work — 28 percent of his games over the past two seasons have eclipsed 15 fantasy points. Mixon did that just once as a rookie.

mixonvmiller

The realistic upside scenario for Mixon includes slightly more work than Miller in 2018, better efficiency, and a year-end total that outscores Miller by 20 to 30 points.

Is that what you’re looking for in a second-round pick?

Conclusion

This series is not intended to bash the more expensive player — often the pricier asset still makes for a fine play. Sometimes, looking at arbitrage plays is just a helpful thought exercise.

Mixon is an exception. He’s a poor play in the second round or even the third. What drafters are seeing in him is one of the great mysteries of 2018. It’s such a steep price to pay for a player with a plethora of red flags.

If you want a middling player with a decent workload on a solid offense, wait four rounds and draft Miller instead.

  1. Fantasy owners have started to realize this, helping to explain the uptick in Miller’s price from May to now.  (back)

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