The Cincinnati Bengals drafted controversial running back Joe Mixon on Friday with the 48th overall pick.
The Bengals traded down in the second round on Friday to take Mixon, putting them back in the spotlight as a place known for giving second and third chances.
“Cincinnati’s had a history of Marvin Lewis and his guys opening their arms up and saying, ‘We can handle those kind of guys; we have the right infrastructure,’” NFL analyst Mike Mayock said. “(Mixon) is a top 15 pick in any draft. … He’s pretty darn special as a football player.”
The 5-foot-10 running back was one of the top players available at his position, but teams were wary because of his history. Mixon was suspended for his freshman season after punching a female student and breaking bones in her face.
According to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter, the Bengals were among only four teams that said they would consider drafting Mixon.
The crowd in Philadelphia booed when Mixon’s selection was announced by Bengals Hall of Fame lineman Anthony Munoz. Coach Marvin Lewis said the team was aware of how the public would react to the pick, but was comfortable with their decision to select the controversial tailback.
“Obviously this is a pick that opens everybody’s eyes,” Lewis said. “We’ve done such a lot of work regarding Joe Mixon throughout the entire process this year. Based on all the time, all the research, we felt that we can continue to move forward.
“For some of our fans, probably (they’ll) pause for a second,” Lewis said. “But this thing’s got to move forward, and he’s got to move on. He’s lived with this since the day it’s occurred.”
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said that Bengals owner Mike Brown signed off on the pick.
Brown is known for taking troubled players. Linebacker Vontaze Burfict signed with Cincinnati as a free agent after no team was willing to draft him in 2012, and he’s been suspended for his history of illegal hits. His hit to Antonio Brown’s head set up the Steelers’ winning field goal in a 2015 playoff game, leaving the Bengals without a postseason victory since the 1990 season.
Cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones was arrested again in the offseason and faces misdemeanor charges, including assault , for an altercation at a downtown hotel, but the team has stuck with him. A felony charge for spitting on a nurse at the county jail has been dropped.
When video from the police cruiser was released showing Jones cursing officers after his arrest, the team took the unusual move of publicly apologizing for his behavior . Jones is still on the team, however, although the NFL could suspend him.
And now all the attention will be on their new running back, who fills a hole in the offense and puts the team’s reputation back on the line. The Bengals were sold on him after spending time with him, and Mixon was convinced they’d take a chance on him.
“After going there and having a good talk with coach Lewis and the owner, I felt they felt very comfortable,” Mixon said on a conference call. “I was very straight-up with them.”
Mixon punched Amelia Molitor and broke bones in her face during an altercation in July 2014, prompting his one-year suspension. He returned and had two impressive seasons, turning into an All-Big 12 performer while setting a school record for all-purpose yards in a season.
Cincinnati needed a running back after Rex Burkhead — who also was used as a slot receiver — left for New England. Plus, Giovani Bernard is recovering from a torn ACL, raising doubts about depth at the position. Jeremy Hill is the starter.
The running game has ranked in the middle of the pack each of the last two seasons after coming in at No. 6 in 2014, so it wasn’t a surprise that they went for a running back.
The choice of Mixon created a stir. Video of Mixon’s punch was released in December.
“I don’t know who isn’t disgusted with what they saw,” Lewis said. “But that was one day in the young man’s life. He gets the opportunity to move forward and write his script from here on.”
The Bengals took offensive players in the first two rounds. They chose receiver John Ross from Washington with the ninth overall pick on Thursday night.
They got around to helping their defensive front by taking end Jordan Willis from Kansas State in the third round. The Bengals had trouble getting pressure on the quarterback last season and finished with their second-lowest sack total in the last eight years. Willis will move into their line rotation.