Joe Mixon - Buy Low or Return to Sender?

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Joe Mixon is an enigma. Fantasy owners had no idea what to do with the rookie running back entering the season. Many over-drafted him due to his immense talent and tremendous upside. Others stayed far away due to him joining a crowded backfield running behind a bad offensive line. Four weeks into the season, people on both sides can stand by their decision.

Mixon's season has been filled with some good, some bad, and some ugly. But what stands out the most about his value moving forward, and should owners look to buy low on Mixon or sell if they own him?

It's time to make a hard decision about what to do with Mixon if you own him or how to approach him if he is available on waivers in your league.

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Joe Mixon: Boom or Bust?

To understand what Mixon has done so far and what he's going to do moving forward, there's no reason to analyze the first two weeks of his season. The Cincinnati backfield was a full blown timeshare, with the trio of Mixon, Giovani Bernard, and Jeremy Hill each receiving a similar amount of carries, and Bernard leading the trio in snaps overall. Offensive coordinator Ken Zampese was fired after a dreadful 0-2 start. What's relevant to us is what happened in the two games with new OC Bill Lazor running the offense.

Lazor has converted the backfield from a committee to a reliance on Mixon. He has 42 touches in his last two games, while Hill and Bernard have a combined 26. There's no doubt Mixon is going to get the bulk of the work for the rest of the season. The Bengals know what they have in Hill and Bernard at this point and will want to see as much of their second round draft pick as possible. Volume is half the battle when it comes to fantasy success. The more games Mixon gets under his belt, his floor should begin to stabilize nicely. Mixon owners will have the satisfaction of knowing he should get at least 15 touches with a usual gameflow.

Mixon played well in his first career start in Week 3. He ran 18 times for 62 yards and added three receptions for 39 yards. Mixon owners expected him to build upon this solid showing in a nice Week 4 matchup against Cleveland, but Mixon failed to come close to expectations, rushing for just 29 yards on 17 carries along with four receptions for 19 yards. He's averaging just 2.6 yards per rush since taking over the starting job.

The offensive line has done Mixon no favors. They were ranked as the second worst unit in the NFL by Pro Football Focus this preseason, and they are living up to the hype. The loss of All-Pro tackle Andrew Whitworth is being felt. A new offensive coordinator can provide more touches and opportunities for Mixon, but for him to truly maximize his potential, the line needs to improve. Andy Dalton played a near perfect game in Week 4 and was still sacked three times. He played well in spite of the line, not because of it.

Here's what we know about Mixon's situation: he's an insanely talented rookie who's going to get the bulk of Cincinatti's carries, but poor offensive line play may limit his ceiling in 2017. Here's what we don't know: is Joe Mixon going to get goal line carries?

The Bengals haven't ran the ball inside the five all season. Jeremy Hill has scored at least nine touchdowns in each of his three NFL seasons. There's a strong chance that he remains the goal line back in Cincinnati, but it's hard to make a call between the two at this point. This could end up being the difference maker between Mixon becoming a strong RB2 this season or just being an upside rookie FLEX play. Hopefully the Bengals can get near the goal line this week and we can receive some clarity.

The pieces are all here for you to make a call on Mixon. I plan on holding or buying low on Mixon. The biggest concern with his situation heading into the season was volume. Now that we know he's getting the volume, he's at the very least become a FLEX with a decent floor. It's hard to imagine his value getting any lower than it is now. There's no reason to give up on him now if you're a Mixon owner. You didn't draft this guy thinking he was going to be an RB1 this early, but he just might.

 

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