Oklahoma football: Sooners RB Joe Mixon impresses on pro day

By The Sports Xchange   |   March 8, 2017 at 3:40 PM
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March 8 (UPI) -- NORMAN, Okla. -- Oklahoma Sooners football held its much anticipated pro day on Wednesday, giving polarizing running back prospect Joe Mixon an opportunity to audition for the NFL teams in attendance.

Mixon didn't disappoint with solid numbers in the broad jump (9-feet-10), vertical jump (35 inches), bench press (21) and his only 40-yard dash attempt that was clocked in the mid-4.4s, depending on the watch.

Two teams confirmed they are leaving Norman with a 4.47 "official" time for him. Scouts were told that Mixon only ran his 40-yard dash once on advice by his agent.

In comparison, Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott ran 4.47 in the 40-yard dash at last year's Combine with a 32 1/2-inch vertical and 9-10 broad jump. The 225-pound Elliott is a different style of runner, but had almost identical testing numbers with Mixon.

The numbers match up with the tape and confirm that the former Sooners running back is one of the top talents at the position in the 2017 NFL Draft -- based on-the-field only.

Mixon, who measured a shade under 6-1 (6-feet 3/4-inches) and 228 pounds, wasn't invited to the NFL Scouting Combine last weekend in Indianapolis because of his off-field troubles.

In July 2014, he was arrested for misdemeanor assault after he punched a woman in the face, breaking her jaw and cheekbone. Mixon received 100 hours of community service, underwent counseling and was suspended from the football program for the 2014 season. The gruesome incident was also captured on camera.

Mixon emphasized his remorse on Wednesday for what happened and is attempting to express that to NFL teams.

"I own to what I did that day," Mixon said. "It wasn't right. It is never right."

Only one general manager and head coach attended the workout -- Minnesota Vikings general manager Rick Spielman and head coach Mike Zimmer, along with running backs coach Kennedy Polamalu. Mixon had several meetings set up after his pro day, but did not disclose them.

"You live and you learn," Mixon said. "You go through a lot of things in life and what you do from whatever mistake, you can't take anything back. At the end of the day, you can only learn from what you did."

Mixon was outstanding during the positional drills, especially as a pass-catcher. He showed off fluid strides, soft hands and smooth body control to catch-and-run in one motion, displaying why some feel his receiving talent is his best asset. Mixon struggled during punt return drills, struggling to locate, but did improve with added reps.

A true wild card in terms of draft projection, Mixon has first-round talent, but he won't be on every draft board and teams will feel differently about where his value fits on draft weekend.

At this point, Mixon only has one expectation: "just to be drafted."

-- Mixon had the buzz entering the day, but it was linebacker Jordan Evans who had scouts talking after the workout.

At 6-3 and 232 pounds, Evans ran his 40-yard dash in 4.51 seconds, adding excellent numbers in the short shuttle (4.22), vertical jump (38.5), broad jump (9-11) and bench press (19).

A surprise Combine snub, Evans put together a strong senior campaign, leading the Sooners in tackles (98) and interceptions (four), including two returned for scores. With his 2016 game film and his strong workout numbers, it would be a surprise if Evans isn't drafted.

-- Although the running back under the microscope on Wednesday was Mixon, Samaje Perine has plenty of fans in the scouting community.

He mostly stood on his numbers from the Combine, but earned praise from NFL coaches for his work in the positional drills, taking instruction and applying it.

Perine put on a clinic of how a running back should look during blocking drills and held his own as a pass-catcher, especially considering he had to compete with Mixon. The Steelers, Vikings and Panthers showed interest in the powerful back and he only helped himself at the pro day.

-- After declining his Senior Bowl invitation and choosing not to work out in Indianapolis, wide receiver Dede Westbrook had a lot on the line on Wednesday's workout.

He measured a hair under 6-feet and 174 pounds and ran a 4.40 in the 40-yard dash.

Westbrook didn't impress on the bench (eight reps) or running the short shuttle (4.39), but he caught almost everything thrown his way during drills.

He will be off some draft boards due to his off-field past, but for teams still considering him, Westbrook had a solid day.

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