Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon is headed to Cincinnati, which added to its reputation for taking chances on players with significant off-field issues.
The Bengals traded down in the second round on Friday and took Mixon with the 48th overall pick, putting them back in the spotlight as a place known for giving second and third chances.
The 5-foot-10 running back was one of the top players available at his position, but teams were wary because of his history. Mixon was suspended for his freshman season after punching a female student and breaking bones in her face.
The crowd in Philadelphia booed when Mixon’s selection was announced. Coach Marvin Lewis said the team was aware of public reaction to the pick.
“For some of our fans, probably (they'll) pause for a second,” Lewis said. “But this thing’s got to move forward, and he’s got to move on. He’s lived with this since the day it’s occurred.”
Bengals owner Mike Brown is known for taking troubled players. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict signed after no team was willing to draft him, and he’s been suspended for his history of illegal hits. Cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones was arrested again in the offseason and faces misdemeanor charges, but the team has stuck with him.
And now all the attention will be on their new running back, who fills a hole in the offense and puts the team’s reputation back on the line.
Mixon punched Amelia Molitor and broke bones in her face during an altercation in July 2014, prompting his one-year suspension. He returned and had two impressive seasons, turning into an All-Big 12 performer while setting a school record for all-purpose yards in a season.
Cincinnati needed a running back after Rex Burkhead – who also was used as a slot receiver – left for New England. Plus, Giovani Bernard is recovering from a torn ACL, raising doubts about depth at the position.
The running game was sluggish last season behind an offensive line that struggled to open holes and protect quarterback Andy Dalton. The running game has ranked in the middle of the pack each of the last two seasons after coming in at No. 6 in 2014, so it wasn’t a surprise that they went for a running back.
The choice of Mixon opened some eyes. Video of his punch was released in December.
“I don’t know who isn’t disgusted with what they saw,” Lewis said. “But that was one day in the young man’s life. He gets the opportunity to move forward and write his script from here on.”
The Bengals have taken offensive players in the first two rounds. They chose receiver John Ross from Washington with the ninth overall pick on Thursday night.