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NFL Draft 2017: Joe Mixon could be in play with Eagles’ second round pick

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Mixon is expected to be a Day 2 selection.

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Auburn v Oklahoma Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Despite all his off-field issues, Joe Mixon isn’t expected to take a major tumble down draft boards in the 2017 NFL Draft. In fact, many NFL personnel people believe the Oklahoma running back prospect will be a Day 2 selection.

If Chip Kelly was still the Eagles’ head coach, we could probably rule out Mixon being on Philadelphia’s board this year (#culture). But with Kelly gone, it hardly seems like that’s the case.

After listening to Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and head coach Doug Pederson speak at the league’s meetings last week, the sense I get is the team has not ruled out drafting Mixon. Neither Lurie nor Pederson took a hard stance on Mixon like Patriots owner Rob Kraft did, for example.

“I don’t want to talk about a specific player,” said Lurie. “Of course, I know all about situations like that. I’ll say this: first of all, we’ve been an organization that gives players a second chance. However, we’ve also been an organization that really values character. OK? So add to that the fact that I would never want to telegraph what we’re going to do at any position in the draft. Sitting here with all you guys, just to be completely honest, I can’t explain to you exactly what we would be doing because I don’t want to telegraph to the rest of the league what we’re going to do. So that’s sort of the foundation of that.”

From a football perspective, Mixon does make sense for the Eagles. Philadelphia has a gaping hole at running back. Ryan Mathews is expected to be released eventually. Darren Sproles will retire after this season. Wendell Smallwood is unproven and the team seems to view him as a rotational rusher more than a starting running back.

Mixon, meanwhile, has the potential to be an every-down back for the Eagles. In fact, it sounded like Pederson was almost describing him when talking about what Philadelphia looks for in a running back.

And there’s no denying Mixon is a talented player. Not everyone thinks his football skills are elite (BGN’s Ben Natan has him ranked seventh), but some think he’s the best rusher in this class. NFL Films legend Greg Cosell and BGN’s Jonny Page, for example, have him ranked as their No. 1 running back based on film alone.

Talent wise, he is a stud. He's big enough to handle a heavy workload and he's also freakishly athletic. He has great burst and can get you explosive plays. He can lower his shoulder and run through you, can stiff arm you but can also make you miss with great wiggle and a great jump cut. He has excellent contact balance. He's also superb out the backfield, runs great routes and catches the ball really well. His vision needs work, he shows outstanding patience but sometimes waits too long and misses backside cuts. He is only 20 years old though and I think he will continue to improve.

Last year, the Eagles showed they were willing to gamble on character concerns by drafting Day 3 players such as Wendell Smallwood, Jalen Mills, and Alex McCalister later in the draft. Howie Roseman admitted the team felt the need to take risks due to the fact they gave up a number of draft picks in the Carson Wentz trade.

Based on what NFL personnel people believe, it doesn’t seem like Mixon is going to be in a similar spot as those late round picks were. The Eagles will have to take a bigger risk if they truly want to draft him.

After going through the Michael Vick era, the Eagles are no strangers to scrutiny and criticism when it comes to taking chances on troubled players. The difference here, of course, is that Vick served his time and showed signs of remorse as he tried to redeem himself. The Eagles will have to determine if Mixon is worth being trusted with a second chance.

For what it’s worth, a number of Eagles fans here on Bleeding Green Nation would be OK with the team drafting him.

Personally, as I’ve explained before, I’d rather the team not do it. I’m not saying I think people don’t deserve second chances. I just would rather the Eagles go in a different direction given the fact there are a lot of other talented rushers in this year’s class. I don’t see the need to be so obsessed with getting a potential “steal” at the cost of taking a big risk on character concerns.

But ultimately my opinion (or yours) really doesn’t matter. The Eagles are doing their homework on Mixon (they reportedly worked him out) and the organization will make an informed decision. The feeling here is that if he’s on the board with the No. 43 pick, there’s a pretty decent chance the Eagles will take him.