CINCINNATI — Joe Mixon has had an impressive start to his NFL career.
The 23-year-old is coming off of back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons. He has been the Bengals' most productive player on offense in each of the past two seasons.
The rest of the NFL believes Mixon is one of the leagues top backs. ESPN polled over 50 executives, coaches, scouts and players in a quest to determine the NFL's best running backs. Each voter gave their best 10 to 15 backs in the league.
Mixon was ranked eighth. ESPN's Jeremy Fowler wrote about the fourth-year pro:
Mixon was the Bengals' best player in the second half of 2019, rushing for 817 yards and five scores over the final eight games," ESPN's Jeremy Fowler wrote. "A few execs compared his build to Saquon's (Barkley), without the same explosion.
"Underrated, and the O-line is not doing him any favors," said a veteran NFL linebacker. "An all-around guy, catching screens and flare routes, big guy for DBs to take down. Power and balance, run people over and make people miss. Reminds me of Marshawn [Lynch], but not as wide. Super quick."
Mixon produced 29 carries of 10 or more yards, eighth in the NFL. Like Henry and Chubb, he gets knocked for a lack of production in the passing game -- "Isn't a sudden, make-you-miss guy off the pass," one coordinator said -- but don't be surprised if the Bengals use him more in that area.
At least one voter ranked Mixon fourth in the NFL, while someone also had him as low as 14th.
It's silly to put him in the same conversation and Derrick Henry and Nick Chubb from a pass-catching perspective. Mixon is an above-average receiver out of the backfield.
The Bengals haven't utilized him enough in the passing game, but that should change with Joe Burrow at quarterback.
Mixon is in the final year of his rookie contract. The Bengals are hoping to sign him to a long-term deal.
I created an extension proposal would make him the sixth-highest paid running back in the NFL.
This ranking makes a lot of sense. Mixon might be the eighth-best back in the league entering the 2020 season, but he has plenty of untapped potential. He could be higher on this list a year from now. It's up to head coach Zac Taylor and the Bengals to maximize his talent.
Saquon Barkley was ranked first, followed by Christian McCaffrey, Ezekiel Elliott, Alvin Kamara, Derrick Henry, Dalvin Cook and Nick Chubb. Josh Jacobs and Le'Veon Bell were ranked ninth and tenth.
Four of the 10 running backs in this ranking — Mixon, McCaffrey, Cook and Kamara — were taken in the 2017 NFL Draft.