Dynasty Dilemma: Joe Mixon
Just two runningbacks have outscored Bengals lead rusher Joe Mixon over the past two seasons in fantasy football. Despite concerns over his status as a Bengal, the Oklahoma product is back for his seventh season in Cincinnati, with a new “prove it” contract that could see him exiting the Bengals as early as next off-season.
At 27 years old, Mixon is in one of the most polarizing age brackets in all of dynasty. 26-28-year-old running backs see high fluctuation points in value and production every year, and Mixon is now at the age where you start to question how many more years he has left as a volume-based RB1. With Dalvin Cook(less than a year older than Mixon) already shipped out of Minnesota, Mixon’s future is a huge question mark.
REASON TO BUY
Mixon is the ideal piece for a contender to acquire. He’s not priced like Jonathan Taylor or Breece Hall who owners build around, but may give you similar or more production at a fraction of the cost. In your average 12-team PPR Superflex league, Mixon can be acquired for anywhere from the 1.11-2.04 in price, a range that sees a dramatic fall-off in talent in the rookie class. In 2024 picks, Mixon can usually be bought for a 2nd and a 3rd. Of the nine running backs who outscored him in points per game last season, not a single one is priced lower than him. Mixon has averaged over 17.5 PPG(5th among all running backs) over the last two seasons, yet is priced outside of the top 24 in most dynasty rankings.
Mixon returned to the Cincinnati Bengals after an offseason filled with pundits sure of his eviction from the active roster, and owners couldn’t be happier. Mixon re-enters a Bengals team that has been the eight-best scoring offense in the league the past two seasons and is only getting better. With the return of every notable starter and the
additions of Irv Smith Jr. and Orlando Brown, the Bengals are poised for a top 5 offense led by star quarterback Joe Burrow.
Runningbacks in high-powered offenses score more points than those in bad ones, and Mixon has never had less competition. With Samaje Perine shipped out to Denver, the rest Bengals backfield has a combined 64 career carries, with fifth-round rookie Chase Brown being Mixon’s biggest competition. Mixon already took 67% of the Bengal's snaps last season, and with even less competition, we may see one of the highest-volume backs in the league coming into next year. Mixon was 14th in touches among all running backs last year despite missing nearly 4 full games. The ball is completely in his court to be back in the top 5-10 range of carries and receptions among all RBs.
REASON TO SELL
Inefficiency at the RB position
With all of this talk about Mixon getting cut, there had to be a reason, right? Mixon has plenty of concerns with real-life football to warrant fading him in Dynasty. Among running backs with 200 or more carries last year (a sample size of 22 runners), Mixon was one of only four with less than 4.0 yards per carry. He was joined by Najee Harris, third-round rookie Brian Robinson Jr, and now-cut Ezekiel Elliot. Though his contract was the main reason many thought he would be cut, Mixon was one of the least efficient bellcow backs in the NFL. He ranked 61st in true yards per carry according to PlayerProfiler.com. He was last in yards after contact per attempt, only tied with Elliott at the bottom. Mixon is no longer one of the NFL’s best backs, and at 27 years old it’s likely we’ve already seen the best of him.
The Bengals were very deliberate in the way they structured Mixon’s contract. The 27-year-old will make just $4.128 million in guaranteed money this season, and in the 2024 offseason, Cincinnati can release him for less than $3 million in dead cap space. With the current progression of NFL runningbacks and the recent pushback from players like Saquon Barkley, we’ve likely seen the last time running backs are ever valued as a premium asset. We’ve seen nine players in the last two drafts eclipse Mixon’s 826-yard mark from last season, five of which were drafted in the third round or later. It’s never been easier to find production at the position, and Mixon is no longer a valuable asset. We may see him be released before the NFL Draft in 2024, and with how teams are setting up their rosters, it’s almost impossible we see him go to a team that gives him as much volume as Cincinnati. Of the top 36 scoring runningbacks in 2022, Mixon was seventh in touches per game, but bottom six in yards per carry. Mixon without volume is barely an RB3.
1Joe Mixon has served fantasy owners very well over the last few years, and those that decided to buy low two offseasons ago have been vindicated in their cheaply found RB1. He has the volume, he has the past points, but is he still worth buying?
Despite the obvious cons of Mixon’s game, it’s hard not to see the upside way outproducing the downside. He hasn’t had a serious injury in two seasons and is still young enough. 27 IS NOT OLD!!! Being priced around the likes of Alexander Mattison, Isiah Pacheco and Devon Achane, it’s hard not to like the upside he brings. The fact of the matter is, no running back outside of maybe five or so superstars is assured volume past the season their in. We saw this with Travis Etienne and Ken Walker this offseason. The runningbacks priced around Mixon have just as much mystery involved in their future. How likely is it Mattison is the only back in Minnesota in ‘24, or that the Chiefs don’t add someone around Pacheco, or that Achane somehow averages north of 15 touches a game? We can’t predict any of that, but only one of the four guys in that group is poised for another RB1 season. That’s Joe Mixon. I don’t think any rebuilder should be touching Mixon with a 10-foot pole, but if an owner feels like a Joe Mixon in the flex spot can win them a championship, they should happily ship out Devon Achane or Elijah Moore to get them there.
Junior Journalism major at The University of Texas with a focus on sports media and analytics. I cover Texas sports in writing as well as host a podcast on the side of writing for Dynastypros. I focus mainly on dynasty theory and redraft rankings but go a lot into buy and sell Dynasty Dilemnas.