McGinn on NFL draft: RBs | Teams weigh risk with Mixon
First in position-by-position series previewing the 2017 NFL draft.
GREEN BAY - Thirty-one owners of NFL teams and Mark Murphy, president and chief executive officer of the Green Bay Packers, ultimately will decide the immediate football fate of Joe Mixon in the draft next week.
Mixon, the running back from Oklahoma, might be the draft’s most polarizing player after he brutally assaulted a woman in July 2014 with a right-handed punch that broke her jaw and caused other facial fractures leading to eight hours of surgery three days later.
The incident was caught on a surveillance camera inside a restaurant in Norman, Okla. The video was released in December, showing millions what led to Oklahoma’s one-year suspension of Mixon from all football-related activities and his subsequent plea to a misdemeanor charge of acts resulting in gross injury.
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Mixon, 20, completed a one-year deferred sentence, 100 hours of community service and cognitive behavior counseling. The victim of the assault, Amelia Molitor, later filed a civil suit against Mixon that remains in litigation.
In late December, Mixon held a news conference in which he apologized to Molitor, now 23. Mixon released the video himself a week earlier when court rulings made it apparent it soon would be made public anyway.
Mixon’s status as a first-round talent is undeniable. He’s big, fast, athletic and versatile. In a draft deep with capable running backs, Mixon is one of only a handful of true three-down players.
Each year, teams spend millions investigating character and off-field concerns. In some cities, scouts are valued as much if not more for their ability to uncover and evaluate red-flag issues on players than their ability to evaluate them as players.
The league itself took a tougher stance against domestic violence after video surfaced of Ray Rice hitting his then-girlfriend in 2014. Rice’s attempts to resume his career failed when no team would sign him at the risk of public outcry and protest.
Some teams remain irked about the NFL’s decision to ban Mixon from the scouting combine. As a result, more than 10 teams, including the Packers, have had Mixon visit their facility for interviews and medical evaluation. Others have sent representatives across the country to become more familiar with him.
This month, the Journal Sentinel asked executives in personnel from 11 teams this question: What round, if any, would you feel comfortable drafting Joe Mixon?
Six personnel men said they had made the decision not to draft Mixon under any circumstances. Of the three that would select Mixon, one said first round and two said third round. Two executives declined to comment.
Here, in their words, is how 10 of the executives in personnel view Mixon entering the draft.
AFC executive: “How can you in our (large) market? How could you in any market take that guy early or in general? Off the board. Me, personally, I’d have a very hard time living with that.”
NFC executive: “I really think without the incident he’s a top-five pick. He’s probably going to go late first to mid-second. This guy’s just too talented. What he did was terrible. It was three years ago. He got suspended for a year. It’s not like he hasn’t paid a price. Since he did, he’s been fine. It will come down to the owner. I think a lot of owners will be very skeptical doing it. If I was in the 20s I’d take him.”
AFC executive: “He will not be on my board. Impulsive violence against a defenseless woman. I believe in forgiveness, but this is not a matter of forgiveness. It’s natural consequences for an action. I wish him well. ... Once you watch it you become a witness. I don’t need someone else telling me what happened. Maybe I don’t know all the circumstances before and after. A lot of times you’re not sure what really happened. This one, I saw it. He’s had some other times where he’s snapped. Not this heinous. I’ve got to look my wife in the eye. That’s not what I’m about.”
NFC executive: “I wouldn’t feel comfortable. You’re going to have to get up in front of a camera (if Mixon is drafted). If it’s on video now, you have no chance. But they swear by the kid at the school. He probably had too much to drink, but you can’t hit a girl. He won’t be on our board.”
NFC executive: “Off the board. Our guys went and talked to him. They said he was really good. Doesn’t drink, doesn’t smoke. Just made a mistake when he was 18 and is paying for it.”
AFC executive: “To be determined. I’m going to pass on that. Some opinions I get paid for.”
AFC executive: “I am grading the guy as a player. The owner is the one that has to make the decision. There’s other people (football players) out there who have done much worse things. I don’t know what will happen, but I will bet you a team will draft him and he turns out to be a star. I don’t know how you’re going to justify it but if the guy goes out and scores touchdowns people are going to forget about it real quickly.”
NFC executive: “If your owner signs off on it then you go ahead and take him. We’re definitely not going down that road. Whether you take him in the first or the seventh, either you’re making a stand or you’re not. It’s not like some other incidents where drugs or this and that (affect) the value and the round. To me, this is you’re yes or no for him.”
AFC executive: “I did a lot of (expletive) when I was 18 that I’m not proud of but I never knocked out a girl. That’s just such a hot-button issue. I’m hearing too many things. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. I don’t have the confidence in him to draft him. We can get another back. You may turn down a special guy but the special guy’s got risks. I couldn’t do it.”
AFC executive: “He’s got talent but he’s also been caught on video. I took him off the board.”
Sooners coach Bob Stoops suspended Mixon for a Nov. 3 game against Iowa State after he tore a parking ticket in half and threw it at the attendant, hitting her in the face.
According to the police report, Mixon inched his car toward the attendant in what was described as intimidating fashion.
In December, Stoops said he would have thrown Mixon off the team if he had slugged Molitor in the current climate.
“Two-and-a-half years later, dismissal is really the only thing that is possible,” said Stoops. “A young guy having an opportunity to rehabilitate and to have some kind of discipline and come back from it is really not there anymore. Hopefully, that message goes down even to the high school level that these things are just unacceptable to any degree.”
Stoops said he was shaken by the video, describing it as “horrible.”
Sixteen personnel people agreed to rank the running backs on a 1-to-5 basis, with a first-place vote worth five points, a second worth four and so on.
Leonard Fournette led with 73 points, including 10 firsts. He was followed by Dalvin Cook, 61 (four); Christian McCaffrey, 47 (one); Joe Mixon, 34 (one); Alvin Kamara, 12; D’Onta Foreman, five; Kareem Hunt, four; Samaje Perine, three, and Curtis Samuel, one.
COMING NEXT: Offensive linemen