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Fantasy Football: Is 2021 finally the year of Joe Mixon?

We’re in the thick of the NFL offseason and it’s officially time to start fantasy football prep. I’ll be answering the biggest questions heading into the 2021 season. Click here to read the series of questions answered so far.

The Cincinnati Bengals selected Joe Mixon with the 48th overall pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. And after Mixon put up back-to-back impressive seasons at Oklahoma, many were left to believe that the 6-foot-1, 226-pound running back was the next big thing at the position, mainly because of his NFL-ready ability as a receiver.

Fast forward four years, and we’re still waiting for Mixon to truly break out at the NFL level. He’s been more than solid, don’t get me wrong, averaging 1,091 total yards and 6.3 touchdowns per season since entering the league. Still, many have regularly invested first-round fantasy football draft capital in order to acquire Mixon’s services, and he has largely failed to return that level of production during his short career.

Good news for Mixon truthers: 2021 might just give the still-young running back the best quarterback and most fantasy-friendly workload of his career. What follows is a breakdown of just how cozy of a situation Mixon is entering, as well as what we should make of his fantasy football value.

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Mixon has never been bad at football

The usual Twitter discourse directed toward someone who chooses to hype up Mixon is either negative and assumes he’s always been bad (“We say this every year”) or is positive while acknowledging things haven’t been great (“I’m ready to be hurt again” Michael Scott gif).

In reality, Mixon has been good for fantasy business whenever healthy since gaining a true starting role in his second year in the league:

  • 2020: RB10 in PPR per game
  • 2019: RB13 overall
  • 2018: RB10 overall

Along the way, all Mixon generally did was make the most out of his touches. His 84.6 PFF rushing grade ranks 16th among 115 running backs with at least 100 carries since 2017, while his average of 1.26 yards per route run is tied for 21st among 43 backs with at least 100 targets during the same span.

Note that 2020 was the first year Mixon didn't play at least 14 games in his career. Obviously, those who drafted Mixon as a top-12 RB in previous seasons were hoping for more of a high-end RB1 finish as opposed to the borderline RB1 production we’ve seen, but it is not as if the man hasn’t been a more than solid fantasy and real-life back throughout his career.

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