Oklahoma RB Joe Mixon Visits Green Bay Before NFL Draft

The Packers brought Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon to Lambeau Field for a pre-draft visit, according to a report by the NFL Network’s Mike Garofalo.

Earlier this week, ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. insinuated the Packers may be a potential fit for Mixon, who he grades as a first-round talent.

Mixon set Oklahoma’s single-season record for all-purpose yards with 2,331 last season, and has the build and skillset to be an every-down running back. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein, who writes many of the scouting reports posted on the league’s website, compared Mixon to Le’Veon Bell.

“Mixon has the talent to be an every-down, all-day running back with the potential to take over a game on the ground or through the air,” Zierlein wrote.

Mixon’s off the field issues

Video of a violent altercation between Mixon and a female classmate from July 2014 was released online in December. The video shows the 18-year-old Mixon punch the female in the face, causing her to hit a table and the ground. She suffered four broken bones in her face as a result.

Mixon was not arrested at the scene, and was charged with misdemeanour assault a few weeks later. He surrendered on his own and entered an “Alford plea,” where he was able to maintain his innocence while acknowledging enough evidence exists for a jury to find him guilty, in October 2014.

He was sentenced to 100 hours of community service and cognitive behavior counseling. Oklahoma suspended him for the entire 2014-2015 season, his freshman season.

This past season, Mixon was suspended by the Sooners for a November game against Iowa State for "violating team rules." It was later reported Mixon, after receiving a parking ticket, tore the ticket up in front of the attendant and threw it on the ground.

What’s a pre-draft visit, anyway?

Each team receives 30 official visits, which they can use at their discretion.

There are many opportunities to meet with players besides a pre-draft visit – at the combine, at the player’s pro day or conducting a private workout outside of the team’s facilities.

There are generally three reasons why a team would bring in a player for a pre-draft visit:

  1. The player has a history of injuries or a criminal record. This is generally more true for players held in higher regard, like Mixon.
  2. The player won’t be available when the team drafts, but is interested in having some background for when (or if) the player becomes a free agent.
  3. The player has a reputation as a unique personality.

In recent memory, the Packers brought running back Marshawn Lynch before the 2007 NFL Draft for a pre-draft visit because of his unique personality to ensure he’d be comfortable in Green Bay if he was the pick.

How the Packers use pre-draft visits

Eight years apart, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel scribe Tom Silverstein and Green Bay Press-Gazette writer Wes Hodkiewicz (now writing for Packers.com) gave insight into how the Packers’ front office operates.

Here’s what Silverstein wrote in 2007:

Thompson uses his 30 allotted pre-draft visits almost entirely on players he thinks won’t be drafted. Instead of doubling up on interviews conducted with the top-ranked players at the scouting combine, he uses the visits to speak to the long shots, figuring that those who visit will find comfort in Green Bay and choose the Packers when they decide to sign free agent deals.

And then Hodkiewicz from 2015:

General manager Ted Thompson prefers to use pre-draft visits to circle back with possible late-round picks or priority free agents who might not have been invited to the NFL combine. For the prospects, it's an opportunity to gauge a team's interest.

Does Mixon visiting Green Bay mean anything?

Mixon visiting is most likely the Packers doing their homework. His case is unique because both the incident in question and the subsequent criminal charges occurred more than two years ago between July and October 2014.

For example, just six months passed between the arrest of Ravens running back Ray Rice and the initial two-game suspension by the NFL. Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was indicted on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child on September 11 and did not play for the duration of the season.

There is some, albeit slight, correlation to taking a visit with the Packers and ending up on the team. Here’s a few notable players who visited Green Bay before the draft:

  • 2016: RB Don Jackson
  • 2015: FB Aaron Ripkowski
  • 2014: LB Joe Thomas, DE Michael Sam
  • 2013: WR Charles Johnson
  • 2012: S Jeron McMillian

In 2014 when Missouri DE Michael Sam visited the Packers, head coach Mike McCarthy said afterwards that, “Any player who can come here, be a good teammate, follow the rules of our program, which is one, be respectful and produce on the football field, we have room for that guy."

If Mixon is available and the Packers front office has him as the best player available on the board, it’s important to have done their homework before making an important decision.