The Cincinnati Bengals let their long-time third-down back Giovani Bernard go this offseason and ended up waiting until the sixth-round to draft a running back. That back was Michigan’s Chris Evans, who is projected as a receiving back, but nobody believes he’ll make a real impact this season. And even if he or Trayveon Williams are ready to make a big contribution, offensive coordinator Bryan Callahan believes current starter Joe Mixon is in line to handle third-down this season, per ESPN”s Ben Baby.
When asked about third-down, Callahan replied, “I don’t want Joe (Mixon) to leave the field, and I think he’s up for that challenge.” Last year was a lost one for Mixon, who missed the final ten games due to a foot injury. It’s hard to know for sure, but with Joe Burrow’s season over, the team could have been holding him back for this year, but either way, he is reportedly healthy and ready to go.
When healthy last year, Mixon saw a big uptick in receptions, as he caught 3.5 per game and had 14 in his last three games. IN 2019, he averaged just 2.1 receptions per game. I don’t see Mixon as a dynamic receiver like some other third-down backs, but he can get the job done and Callahan is likely hoping to keep the pace up and not need to take Mixon out during the flow of the offense.
Since this doesn’t appear to be coach-speak, as Mixon already has seen an uptick in receiving work, we should be ready for Mixon to get that bump in fantasy football as well. If we extrapolate last season’s receptions, he would have ended with 56 catches in 16 games. That would have tied him for fifth-most for a running back. We can’t consider him a sleeper, as his big workload projections will give him plenty of fantasy support, but his upside clearly is higher than it once was.