The Cincinnati Bengals feel confident that running back Joe Mixon will have a bounce-back season in 2021, but the fantasy football community feels differently. Should you select him in your fantasy drafts this season?
Don’t forget how productive Joe Mixon has been in his NFL career
Mixon averaged 20.5 opportunities (rushing attempts plus targets), 96 total yards, and 15.6 PPR fantasy points per game from 2018 to 2019. This momentum continued into last season. Mixon averaged 24.2 opportunities, 94.3 total yards, and 17 PPR fantasy points per game in six active games before his foot injury in 2020. Unfortunately, he suffered a mid-foot sprain and was eventually shut down for the season.
The 25-year-old averaged 0.69 fantasy points per opportunity last season, ranking 45th among running backs. I can almost see you cringing after reading the previous sentence. Some of the responsibility for Mixon’s poor showing falls on the Bengals’ offensive line. However, the quality of play from this unit will be better in 2021.
Cincinnati’s upgraded offense
The good news is that Mixon is healthy entering 2021. He’s had an excellent training camp and preseason. The Bengals also have a plethora of receivers to support second-year quarterback Joe Burrow, including rookie Ja’Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, and Tyler Boyd.
Cincinnati improved their offense this offseason, which ultimately benefits Mixon. Regardless, he possesses an ability to be productive for fantasy managers despite poor game scripts. Additionally, the Bengals’ reunion with offensive line coach Frank Pollack is a positive.
The Pollack effect
Pollack rejoined the franchise in January as the offensive line coach and run game coordinator. He was previously with the Jets. Pollack had an opportunity to work with future Hall of Fame running back Frank Gore in New York last season. He’s also schemed plays for DeMarco Murray, Ezekiel Elliott, and Arian Foster.
Mixon had the best statistical season of his career when Pollack was with the Bengals in 2018. He rushed for 1,168 yards and 8 touchdowns on 237 attempts, catching 43 of 55 targets for an additional 296 yards.
Mixon can emerge as a true three-down back
In previous years, Mixon’s fantasy value has been constrained by his lack of targets out of the backfield. That will change in 2021 due to the departure of former Bengals RB Giovani Bernard. Bernard has averaged 5.6 rushing attempts and 3.5 targets per game since Mixon’s rookie season in 2017. Cincinnati’s coaching staff is on record announcing Mixon as a bell cow this season.
Prioritizing running backs in fantasy who will see a massive opportunity share is a key way to get a leg up on the competition. Mixon is one such running back and is currently a nice value in drafts.
Mixon’s current ADP
According to Fleaflicker, Mixon is the RB13 with an ADP of 19. In pay-to-play formats such as the National Fantasy Championship, Mixon is also the RB13 with the same ADP. You shouldn’t hesitate to draft him at his ADP. Mixon has the potential to finish as an RB1.