Disrespectful. Indisciplined. Ignorant. Irrational. Idiotic.
If you’ve been following the NFL Draft, College Football, or Oklahoma University with any kind of attention, you’ve already heard the name, Joe Mixon. And you’ve likely heard–or said yourself–all of the above labels thrown onto him, with the last word being used much more heavily that the others. It is indisputable, no matter what viewpoint you are coming from, that Joe Mixon, the 20-year old young man from Oakley, California, made a huge mistake in the wee hours of July 25, 2014. It is indisputable, no matter what viewpoint you are coming from, that Mixon’s life will never be the same as a result of the vicious punch that required his victim, Amelia Molitor, to undergo surgery for broken bones in her face–and nor will hers.
I am not here to defend Mixon. In fact, upon seeing the video of this encounter, I felt sick to my stomach and felt a heavy concern over whether Mixon will be thoroughly counseled for what he did. Before we go any further, I want to reiterate and make clear that domestic violence isn’t something to be tolerated in today’s world–or any past or future worlds–and any punishment imposed on Mixon is deserved. The focus of this article isn’t to look past his domestic issues by any stretch. Rather, the focal point is to isolate and handle Mixon’s case in a strictly-football mindset, because after all, this is The Fantasy Authority, not the Legal Authority. We don’t have the credentials to get into the latter, so we’re going to stick with what you’re here for, and what we’re here for.
Just a Disclaimer
In a post-Ray Rice NFL, we know that the punishment or punishments that may be imposed on Mixon could definitely cripple his career. In fact, it already has cost him pro-football dollars. For starters, Mixon was not extended an invitation to the NFL Combine. (No, it’s not an extensive punishment. Some will even argue that it won’t set him back much, if at all. With the rapidly-growing influence of analytics in pro sports, however, more and more teams need to be able to record as much data as possible before they feel comfortable drafting any prospect. Missing the combine already sets Mixon legs back behind his competition.)
So, of course, before NFL GMs even consider adding Mixon to their 2017 draft class, and to a lesser extent, dynasty fantasy football GMs in their rookie drafts, they should be awaiting what punishment is on hold for Mixon once he gets the call that he’s been acquired by a team.
Getting Down to the Basics
As crude as this may sound (not the intention, but no one wants to read a novel here), this is fantasy football, and the goal of the game is to win championships. How does one win a championship? They win games. How does one win a game? They outscore their opponent. How does one outscore their opponent? They score a lot of points. How does one’s team score a lot of points? They use players who score a lot of points. How do players score a lot of points? They put up good statistics. Unfortunately, in this case, that’s the only thing that will matter when Mixon actually makes it onto a field in the NFL…
Getting His Chances
…and it’s extremely likely that numerous coaches and GMs are thinking the same way. Unless all 32 teams pass up on Mixon a combined 256 times (plus the numerous undrafted free agents) or you somehow remove Mixon from your fantasy league, he’s going to be available. And although part of that hypothetical is definitely possible, the entirety of it isn’t. There will be a number of teams that desperately need an influx of talent at the running back position, and one of them will take a flier on Mixon (especially considering how cheap he’ll be).
But How Talented Is He?
Mixon’s talent, actually, is the one thing about him that can’t be disputed. Mixon is a 20-year old athlete about to enter his prime, while weighing in at 6’1, 227 (for reference, Le’Veon Bell is 6’1, 225). He averaged nearly 7 yards a carry in back-to-back years in a major college conference in addition to some of the best receiving skills you’ll find in a tailback in college football. At the same time, he’s been splitting time in the backfield (with Samaje Perine, a talented rusher in his own right) such that he’s coming into the NFL with very little wear-and-tear. As of now, I have him ranked as the second-most talented running back in this year’s class (behind Dalvin Cook), and the NFL Draft Advisory Committee more or less agrees, giving him a first-round grade this winter.
The Faults in Judging From Afar
The other important thing to remember here is that even with the new rush of social media that brings us closer to these athletes than ever before, we will never know what kind of person a player actually is (on top of the fact that we shouldn’t really be judging each other anyway). For example, a star athlete could’ve been the aggressor of numerous violent, malevolent, or illegal actions, and we would never hear about them. Those in the spotlight have their ways of erasing their past. Even if those acts were somehow leaked to the public, we would never know the validity of them. The player, the accusing party, or partially both could be telling a false story (although, with the release of a video of Mixon’s encounter, this does not apply to Mixon directly).
Does the Shield Even Care?
Additionally, the NFL takes gambles on players with character concerns all of the time. Everyone remembers Jameis Winston being selected first overall in the 2015 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers despite 1) months of deliberation and investigation over his character concerns, including an accused rape, which isn’t any better than what Mixon did, and 2) another extremely talented quarterback available right behind Winston, Marcus Mariota, who was clean of any character concerns, who went second overall to the Tennessee Titans. I’m sure everyone also remembers the Philadelphia Eagles signing Michael Vick right after he finished his two years in jail for running a “cruel and inhumane” dogfighting ring and lying about it. And these two aren’t the only two examples. Multiple sets of hands are needed to count all of the players who are drafted with “character concerns” in any given year, including this year (Dalvin Cook, for instance, isn’t “clean” either, but I haven’t seen those who move Mixon back in their rankings because of his off-the-field acts move Cook back as well).
Should the Shield Even Care?
The oft-ignored part of all of this is once these earmarked prospects enter the NFL, they’re essentially just as likely to commit a suspension-worthy act as any of their peers. Ray Rice didn’t enter the NFL with notable character concerns. Nor did Adrian Peterson. We all know what happened with them. On the flip side, Winston has stayed clean since entering the NFL. As has Dorial Green-Beckham, who dropped in the draft because of similar concerns. In the end, all of this boils down to what Matt Kelley of PlayerProfiler.com said best: “arbitrary knowledge.”
We need to stop acting like we know who will and who won’t misbehave as a pro because we never will. The players themselves probably don’t know that they’re going to do something wrong until they’re actually in the middle of the act. We also have to remember that each one of these athletes are people, are humans, who slam their heads and throw their bodies at each other on the daily for six months a year to make a living. This isn’t an excuse for them, but rather further support for the notion that not one of these players is on completely stable ground.
The Moral Side
So far, nearly every base of this case has been covered, except for one that sticks out like a sore thumb. “Rich, you’ve already explained to us that Mixon will get his chances in the NFL and that we can’t say for sure if anything like this will ever happen again with him. However, the bottom line is he hit a woman, and that can never be taken away from him. If I add Mixon to my team, I would be making a statement to my league mates that the causes and effects of domestic violence can be ignored.”
If handled correctly, drafting Joe Mixon on your dynasty team can actually be a positive rather than a negative for the whole situation. Hear me out. How about this: if you draft Mixon, set a certain benchmark for something positive you will do to do your part in minimizing domestic violence in America and around the world. This benchmark could simply be a donation of $10 for every touchdown Mixon scores whilst on your roster, or $15 for every game your fantasy team wins with Mixon in your lineup. Instead of walking away from and essentially ignoring the problem, drafting Mixon actually gives you a chance to make a positive contribution to help ensure that something like this doesn’t happen again.
At the bottom of the article, I’ve attached a link to nomore.org, the leading website in raising awareness of domestic violence and sexual assault. There, you can get started if you’re planning to learn more about domestic violence or want to make a contribution.
Keeping This Realistic
I have poured all of my energy into handling this situation as carefully as I can. At the same time, I’ve also tried to progress the main points I’ve aimed to get across, but I know I’m not going to convince everyone. If you aren’t budging on your stance on Mixon, I understand. We all have different circumstances, and a “one size fits all” article will never exist. My only goal for these 1600+ words is that I’ve at least been able to open your eyes to the other side of this controversy.
The one thing I ask of you is to please not mix up “making a case for drafting Mixon in fantasy football” and “advocating for Mixon the person and his actions.” You will never see me wearing a Mixon jersey or naming any of my fantasy teams after him. At the same time, we have to investigate and take on every crease and crevice of this event in such detail that we don’t have to ever again.
Follow @PlayThePcts (Rich Torres)