The Tampa Bay Buccaneers hosted Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon for a visit. Mixon is widely seen as one of the best running backs in the 2017 NFL draft, as well as toxic because he broke a woman’s face in 2014 by punching her, a crime for which he entered a plea deal that led to a deferred one-year sentence, counseling, and 100 hours of community service.
But now that the Bucs have been publicly associated with Mixon, folks are getting a bit out of hand with the speculation. Most notably, Daniel Jeremiah, Charles Davis and Bucky Brooks of NFL.com suggested on their latest podcast that the Bucs could use a first-round pick on the 2017 NFL draft prospect.
“Tampa is the team. Because you can look at them where they are offensively, with the quarterback who’s ready to take that next step, you bring in DeSean Jackson to team him up with Mike Evans. And if you’re going to take him in the second round, you might as well take him at nineteen [in the first round].”
That’s....I don’t get that logic. It’s the kind of nonsense that leads to taking a kicker in the second round, because you were going to target him anyway. You have to take into account both the risk of the pick, the value of the pick, and the odds that you can get him later. Because while you might take Mixon, there’s a world of difference between getting him and, say, David Njoku in the first round, versus getting him and, say, Jake Butt in the second.
But that’s tactically, and not morally. Now, NFL teams have shown time and again that they are willing to look away from a lot of issues, as long as players are real upgrades and are going to be on the field. Morality isn’t an issue so much as PR backlash and on-field performance, for teams—but that doesn’t mean I, as a fan, have to think the same way.
Charles Davis suggested that because Jameis Winston has worked out, the Bucs shouldn’t be iffy about Joe Mixon. That’s....a bit of a stretch. For one, there was and remains doubt about the rape accusation leveled at Winston—there is none about what Mixon did.
For two, the controversy about Winston has not gone away and will not go away. The Bucs have benefited on the field, certainly, and Winston has done some good work off the field—but he’s also gotten into occasional hot water, and every time he slips up in any way that accusation will get brought up again. As it is with Ben Roethlisberger. And rightly so: it’s a serious issue that will never be completely cleared up.
And so it will be with Joe Mixon. Just because you think a player won’t present any off-field issues going forward (something teams cannot know with any degree of certainty), doesn’t mean that his past is not an issue—both morally, because you could just as easily take a different player who doesn’t have these issues, and in terms of public relations. You can certainly collect players with past issues, but a portion of your fanbase will not take kindly to that.
For three, Winston is a quarterback. And while morally this is a silly argument, in practice, teams are willing to tolerate a whole lot more from star quarterbacks than they are from any other players.
Sidenote: the way the media continue to talk about these things flattens the issues. Laremy Tunsil, whose transgression was getting filmed smoking weed, gets equated by the Jeremiah/Davis/Brooks crew with Mixon, who broke a woman’s face. Those are not remotely the same kinds of issues!
A first-round pick would be shocking
Regardless of any of that, I would be shocked if the Bucs take Mixon in the first round. La’el Collins, for instance, dropped all the way out of the draft after widely being seen as a first-round pick, all because someone close to him got murdered. He was never a suspect, and there was no real reason that we know of to think he was in any way tied to the murder, and yet no one drafted him. Collins has since played some really good football, unsurprisingly.
In this case, Mixon is on tape knocking out a woman, breaking multiple bones in her face. On tape. He was arrested, reached a plea deal with a deferred one-year sentence and 100 hours of community service. There’s no confusion over what he did. And yet, that wouldn’t drop him in any way? He’d be a first-round pick? I’d be pretty shocked, though the lack of moral concerns among NFL teams shouldn’t really.
None of that means the Bucs won’t draft him. It’s entirely possible they will, and they’ve shown they’re willing to overlook off-field incidents in the recent past. The fact that they brought him in for a visit shows there’s at least some level of interest. If they draft him, that’s likely to be a lot later than the first round, though.
In the end, I’d definitely prefer not to have players who were caught on camera breaking women’s faces, playing for the Bucs. Unfortunately for me and others who agree, we don’t have any say in the matter.