The Bengals, who have had numerous off-filed issues with its players in the past, picked Mixon despite knowing that he once punched a woman in the face. Mixon was suspended from the Oklahoma football team for the 2014 season as a result of the incident. He was also docked a game in 2016 for an incident involving a parking attendant.
Mixon, 20, reached a civil settlement for the punching incident, which left the 19-year-old woman with four broken bones in her face. He pleaded to probation, counseling and community service.
Bengals owner Mike Brown said that the franchise believes Mixon has put the incident "behind him." He released a statement to the Cincinnati Enquirer. An anonymous poll found that just four NFL franchises had the running back on their draft boards.
"In the NFL draft last Friday, the Cincinnati Bengals selected a very talented football player who did a terrible thing his freshman year at college," Brown wrote in the statement.
"The player – Joe Mixon – is a top level football player by everyone's account. Joe's regrettable deed was that he struck a young woman, another student, shortly after arriving on campus in Norman, Oklahoma, three years ago."
"Joe and this young woman recently met in person, came to terms with the incident, and they agreed to resolve their differences so they could move forward with their lives. While the circumstances that led up to the incident are unclear – what is clear is that it is unacceptable for a man to strike a woman."
"Since the incident three years ago, Joe was suspended by the football team, pleaded guilty in court, and accepted the consequences of his actions. He later went on to become a good citizen in Norman, a popular teammate, a player respected by his coaches, and one of the most talented players in college football."
"The Bengals take pride in our hometown and want to provide winning football on the field and successful players off the field. That is the reason we drafted Joe – he is a rare football talent, and his conduct over the past three years leads us to believe he can help us win football games and also become a productive member of this community."Advertisement
"In making our decision, we took a risk. In this case, the risk has an upside as well as a downside. We believe Joe has put this behind him and that he can turn into the player and community member that creates a plus for Cincinnati. We are going to do everything in our power to make this happen. Our hope is that time will prove that this opportunity is deserved, and perhaps – if given a chance – Joe can write a chapter in Cincinnati sports history that both he and Cincinnati can be proud of."
Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said that Mixon is a little out of shape after watching him workout at rookie minicamp.
"That he spent too much time traveling around visiting (other teams); he needs to get in shape again," Lewis told the team website when asked about how Mixon looked." A lot of guys go through that. That's one of the things that, when they come here to visit, you always encourage them that for the next week and a half to get back on their training routine, because they've spent the last two or three weeks traveling and visiting teams."
"I think Joe visited half the teams in the league. So they've got to get back and get after it, and get back to work to get their conditioning level and their running back up (to par). And then it's a different kind of running when you're doing football, as opposed to basically the combine training these guys were doing."
Mixon was one of the most dynamic running backs in college football in his two active seasons with the Sooners. He had 1,109 yards from scrimmage and 11 touchdowns in 13 games in 2015. In 2016, Mixon had 1,812 yards from scrimmage and 15 scores in 12 games. Mixon also had a kick return for a touchdown and threw a touchdown pass last season. His 6.8 career yards per carry are the second-most in Big 12 history since 1996.