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Joe Mixon’s talent doesn’t overshadow his past, but some NFL team will take a chance on him

Mixon has first-round talent, and some NFL team will look past his history.

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Oklahoma v Oklahoma State Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

Joe Mixon’s talent is undeniable. But it’s also impossible to ignore the fact that he was caught on video punching a woman in the face and knocking her unconscious. That has to impact his draft status.

When Mixon punched Amanda Molitor in 2014, he broke her jaw and left her with facial fractures. Mixon was charged with a misdemeanor and sentenced to one year in jail, which was deferred, as well as 100 hours of community service and cognitive behavior counseling. He was also suspended by Oklahoma for a full season.

The conversation surrounding cases like Mixon’s is always difficult. You can’t avoid the stark reality of what he did, especially because it was captured on video. But the NFL is a business, and it is possible for teams to talk themselves into taking a chance on Mixon as he falls on draft day.

“I really think without the incident he’s a top-five pick,” one NFC executive told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Bob McGinn. “He’s probably going to go late first to mid-second. This guy’s just too talented.”

McGinn spoke to several executives around the NFL who have evaluated Mixon, and perspectives vary.

Should Mixon continue to pay for his mistake?

We all have lapses in judgment, especially when we’re young. With Mixon, we’re not talking about a youthful indiscretion. We’re talking about a young man punching a woman in the face with such violence that her injuries required eight hours of surgical repair. And it’s impossible to make this a “gotta hear both sides” situation, because we’ve all seen the video.

Some teams will be willing to look past it because of the time that has passed.

“What he did was terrible. It was three years ago,” an NFC executive said. “He got suspended for a year. It’s not like he hasn’t paid a price. Since he did, he’s been fine. It will come down to the owner. I think a lot of owners will be very skeptical doing it. If I was in the 20s I’d take him.”

For other teams, it’s too great of a risk.

“I did a lot of (expletive) when I was 18 that I’m not proud of but I never knocked out a girl,” an AFC executive said. “That’s just such a hot-button issue. I’m hearing too many things. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.”

Is a team willing to face the backlash of drafting Mixon?

Even if general managers, coaches, and owners can separate any personal feelings they have about Mixon’s actions, there’s still public perception to consider.

“How can you in our (large) market? How could you in any market take that guy early or in general? Off the board,” an AFC executive said to McGinn. “Me, personally, I’d have a very hard time living with that.”

And some executives are going to have a hard time setting aside what Mixon did because they find it reprehensible.

“Once you watch (the video) you become a witness,” said one NFC executive. “I don’t need someone else telling me what happened. ... I’ve got to look my wife in the eye. That’s not what I’m about.”

This hasn’t kept teams from doing due diligence on Mixon. Several teams have been linked to Mixon, including the Saints, Bengals, and Eagles. Lions general manager Bob Quinn was disappointed that Mixon was not allowed to attend the combine, and he said the running back remained on Detroit’s draft board.

Can a team overlook what Mixon did because of his talent?

The answer to this question is always going to be yes for at least one team. But Mixon’s past will be enough to make some teams avoid him on draft day. Six of the 11 team executives McGinn spoke with said they would not draft Mixon under any circumstances.

“I don’t have the confidence in him to draft him. We can get another back,” an AFC executive said. “You may turn down a special guy but the special guy’s got risks. I couldn’t do it.”

There’s no question that Mixon is talented. One scout told McGinn that Mixon is “Adrian Peterson who returns kicks” and “a bigger, better Ezekiel Elliott.”

But the problem of Mixon’s past, preserved forever in that damning video, remains. Mixon will get his shot at NFL glory, but plenty of teams will pass on him on draft day, and that’s understandable.