By: Little Italy (Publisher)
Follow on Twitter: @LILITALY853
In this series I will take one player from each team to add to my All 32 Bust Team for 2021.
RB: Joe Mixon
For this next installment in the 2021 All 32 Bust Series, I really had a tough time selecting a player, because ultimately I feel this offense has a chance to be very good in 2021. I could have very easily taken the easy route and selected the tight end position as a whole as the Bengals 2021 bust, but is anyone out there in standard twelve team leagues really looking there in drafts? Ultimately, I landed on RB Joe Mixon, but to be fair to Joe I told myself I needed to come up with three strikes before fully committing to him as this teams bust. There is no denying that Mixon is very talented as he showed us at the end of the 2019 season. The fact that this coaching staff did him dirty in 2020 by dragging out his foot injury as though it was a week-to-week injury instead of ending it with IR like they should have. By doing this, it soured many on Mixon for much of the off-season. However, it is now the time of year where we start to board the Mixon hype train, which leads me to strike #1.
Currently as I am typing this, Mixon is sitting with an ADP of 18 or RB12 in drafts. This has jumped up considerably from a month ago where Mixon was going as a third round pick in many best ball drafts. A big factor in this jump in ADP is due to the fact that Gio Bernard, the thorn in Mixon fantasy owner’s side, has now relocated to Tampa Bay to ruin Lombardi Lenny’s fantasy value, spoiler. Now Mixon figures to see essentially all of the work out of the backfield in 2021, a thought that Cincy RB coach Justin Hill backed up by saying Mixon will not leave the field in 2021. This projected opportunity and volume would justify a rise in ADP; however, at that current price we would be drafting Mixon at or above his projected ceiling. I no doubt believe Mixon will dominate this backfield, if healthy, but rookie Chris Evans could slide into that Gio role by season’s end, as he is a very talented player. The guys I have projected higher than Mixon are the same players coming off the board around the same time. All these players I would much rather take over Mixon, players such as Cam Akers, Najee Harris, and Antonio Gibson.
That leads me to strike #2 for Mixon, which is the fact that the Bengals are predominantly a pass heavy team. In fact, with Burrow back under center my projections have all three wide receivers (Chase, Higgins, and Boyd) all with over 100 targets. There has also been reports out of camp that Joe Burrow’s arm strength has improved, potentially signaling an even more deep passing offense ahead. As I alluded to above, Mixon no doubt will be on the field more than in the past on passing downs, but that does not mean he will be targeted heavily. Burrow is very good at progressing through his reads which means Mixon likely would become the fifth in his progression. Not to mention Burrow will be looking to push the ball down the field more with arguably the best trio of WR’s in the league at his disposal. Another part of this passing attack that hurts Mixon’s upside is the fact that this team likes to throw inside the 20. In fact, last year with Burrow under center the Bengals passed on 59% of plays inside the red zone, which likely will limit the TD upside Mixon has.
The offensive line is the final deciding factor in if Mixon will bust in 2021. This unit ranked as the league’s worst last year in not only pass protection, but run blocking as well. The Bengals went out and made some changes this offseason to help in that area. The team acquired Riley Reiff who will take over for Bobby Hart, who was awful last season. They drafted Jackson Carman in the second to place alongside talented LT Jonah Williams, but all these moves can be viewed as upgrades for Burrow and the passing game more so than Mixon. Reiff coming in helps the passing game but over the last three seasons, his run blocking has dropped off dramatically. In fact, Reiff ranked 40th out of 54 in PFF’s 2020 run blocking grades. This offensive line is still not going to be good for run blocking and Mixon, therefore is my strike three. At his current ADP, I’m deeming Joe Mixon the 2021 bust for the Bengals. If this is not enough to convince you take a look at a few areas that Mixon struggled in 2021:
Juke Rate: RB33
Yards After Contact: RB81
Yards Created Per Touch: RB45