CLEVELAND, OH – DECEMBER 23: Joe Mixon #28 of the Cincinnati Bengals carries the ball during the third quarter against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium on December 23, 2018 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon has quietly been one of the most consistent and productive fantasy football options since entering the league back in 2017. Serving as the unquestioned lead back, Mixon finished his second season with 1,168 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on 237 carries to go along with 43 receptions for 296 yards and a touchdown. However, what should fantasy football owners expect out of Mixon with first-year head coach Zac Taylor running the offense?

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2019 Fantasy Football Season Preview: Joe Mixon

2018 Recap

Mixon spent the majority of the 2018 season carrying the Cincinnati Bengals’ running game. Appearing in 14 games, Mixon recorded 237 carries for 1,168 yards and eight touchdowns. Mixon had a stronghold on the starters’ job, as backup running back Giovani Bernard finished second on the team with just 56 carries. Additionally, Mixon provided a spark in the passing game, finishing the year with 43 receptions for 296 yards and one touchdown.

Mixon obviously saw the lions’ share of the opportunities, but he was also efficient when given the ball. He averaged a healthy 4.9 yards-per-carry on the season and finished the year with an above-average 48.9% success rate. Mixon got the job done when his number was called, which means the Bengals had every incentive to continue using their talented running back.

Mixon stayed consistent throughout the season even after quarterback Andy Dalton went down with a thumb injury. In nine games with Dalton, Mixon recorded 673 rushing yards, five touchdowns, and 4.74 yards-per-carry. In five games without Dalton, Mixon recorded 495 yards, three touchdowns, and 5.21 yards-per-carry. He only had one game where he put up fewer than 7.8 fantasy points and eclipsed the 15-point plateau on six separate occasions.

2019 Projection

For the first time in his young career, Joe Mixon has a new head coach calling the offense. After 16 long years, the Marvin Lewis is officially at its end and Zac Taylor is now calling the shots. A large portion of Mixon’s value came from his heavy usage and snap percentage. True bell cow running backs are a rarity, and a new coaching philosophy could theoretically crush Mixon’s value.

Fortunately, Zac Taylor comes from the Sean McVay School of Coaching. While he never called the shots in Los Angeles, he was a part of an offense which heavily featured Todd Gurley above all other backs. Anyone reading this article already knows that Gurley is one of the best fantasy running backs in the league, in large part because the coaches don’t take him off the field.

Taylor’s lone season as an offensive coordinator came in 2015 with the Miami Dolphins. During that season, Lamar Miller recorded 194 carries for 872 yards and eight touchdowns as the lead back. The next-closest runner was rookie Jay Ajayi, who recorded 187 yards and one touchdown on 49 carries. This bodes well for Mixon, as Miller saw a grand majority of the work despite Ajayi being more than capable of carrying some of the load.

Joe Mixon Average Draft Position

Fantasy Football Calculator has Mixon as the 14th overall pick and ninth running back selected in Half-PPR scoring formats. This places him ahead of guys like Odell Beckham, Dalvin Cook, and Juju Smith-Schuster but behind players like James Conner, Julio Jones, and Michael Thomas.

This rating feels right, although it’s probably a little on the low side. Mixon should be Cincinnati’s primary running back and see a majority of the workload. While the half-PPR format hurts Mixon’s value relative to wide receivers, he still catches the ball enough to be a valuable contributor on all three downs.

There are very few workhorse backs left in the NFL, and Mixon is one of them. While nobody’s saying you should take him over Christian McCaffrey or Melvin Gordon, he should be a first-round pick. There are more good receivers than running backs, so don’t pass up a chance to grab a guy who has top-five potential. If Mixon’s there at the end of the first round, don’t pass up the chance to add him.

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