The Bengals made a nationally unpopular decision to devote a second-round pick to running back Joe Mixon. Locally, however, the move didn’t seem to create much of a stir.
Yes, Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer wagged a finger at the Bengals for doing that which the Bengals have done more than a few times over the years, but the fan base doesn’t seem to be particularly outraged by the first instance of drafting a guy who was caught on video viciously punching a young woman in the face. The fans may be numb to it; for years, the Bengals provided safe haven to talented players who slid due to off-field concerns, often because the previously understaffed scouting department didn’t know who else to pick when a first-round talent was sitting there at a much later round than expected.
This time around, the video entered the public domain months before the draft, allowing people to process and try to move past the horrendous images. If the video had first emerged last week, Mixon would still be without a team.
Then came the decision of the Bengals to bring Mixon to town promptly after his Pro Day workout. It happened, and no one screamed or shouted about it. Even though the Bengals were obviously on the short list of teams that would have picked Mixon, there was no advance outcry or threats regarding the consequences of bringing Mixon to town.
Few teams likely would have prompted an outcry if they’d drafted Mixon, actually. Few in the media were huffing or puffing about the prospect of Mixon being drafted. The league wasn’t discouraging it (technically, that would have been collusion), and it essentially became a given that Mixon would go early — even after an eleventh-hour incident from his high school days bubbled up roughly a week before the draft.
During the draft, Adam Schefter of ESPN claimed that 28 teams had Mixon off their draft boards. That’s easy to say when a guy is gone in round two. But if Mixon had lingered past round three, four, or five, someone would have thrown him back onto the draft board, rolling the dice and ready to cut the cord if the move had sparked a torch-and-pitchfork parade.
It remains to be seen whether Mixon will help spark a ticker tape parade in Cincinnati. First, they have to get back to the postseason and, for the first time since January 1991, win a playoff game. Mixon will help that effort, and with the reaction to the pick far more muted than it could have been, the gamble the Bengals maybe wasn’t a gamble, after all.
As long as he truly has changed and grown and won’t be doing the things in Cincinnati the thing that he did shortly after arriving in Oklahoma nearly three years ago.