How far will character issues cause Joe Mixon to fall this weekend?

Maurice Jones-Drew knows a thing or two about what an NFL running back looks like.

 

He spent nine years in the league – eight with Jacksonville – tormenting defenses with three 1,000-yard seasons and 79 total touchdowns before retiring at age 29 and becoming an analyst for the NFL Network.

 

At a media function held at the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel on Wednesday, Jones-Drew told Metro Philly that there’s no running back that comes close to Mixon on a sheer talent equation.

 

“It’s not close,” Jones-Drew said. “By far [he’s the best]; not even close.”

 

Jones-Drew wasn’t knocking any of the three likely first-round tailbacks in Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey and Dalvin Cook, either. He believes that Mixon is just that good of a player.

“His abilities speak for themselves,” Jones-Drew said. “If he was clean, he would be a top 2-3 pick who can do everything.”

He’s also quite familiar with Mixon with both players’ hometown being within an hour of one another’s in California. Jones-Drew has had conversations with Mixon since that damning video surfaced. A video that may very well drop him out of the first round altogether.

“He made a mistake at 18, and it’s a big mistake, it’s something you don’t want to see a pattern,” Jones-Drew said. “He understands he has to be clean for the rest of his life. For him it’s more he has to come out and play football really well. Teams are going to look to that and hold him to that and say, ‘Look, you can’t mess up because if you mess up it’s over’.”

Mixon ran for 1,274 yards and 10 touchdowns this past season. He also averaged an impressive 6.8 yards per carry over his two seasons.

Yet, it’s the video of him striking and knocking out a woman that has left a dark cloud latched onto him throughout this process. Jones-Drew, in his conversations with the 20-year-old, feels his apologies have been genuine, and that he knows what’s at stake.

For former NFL head coach and current NFL Network analyst, Steve Mariucci, the abundance of red flags on many of the prospects are cause for concern, especially in Mixon’s case where there’s video evidence.

“It makes public opinion really different, more serious and louder,” Mariucci said.

What team will take on the PR headache that’ll arise when selecting Mixon?

The Eagles have been linked to Mixon, along with teams like Denver. Reports suggest that Mixon will be in play if he’s on the board when the Eagles walk to the podium at pick No. 43.

This isn’t the first time someone has come out and called Mixon the best talent at his position. An unnamed NFL executive also said Mixon is the top overall player in this year’s crop.

“Whichever team does take him, they’re going to get a tremendous player,” Jones-Drew surmised. “I’ve sat down and talked to numerous scouts, coaches, offensive coordinators and they don’t deny the talent... his ability and what he was able to do at Oklahoma, shows that he’s capable of coming into the league right away and being a starter.”