Patriots will steer clear of controversial Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon on draft day
PHOENIX — Patriots owner Robert Kraft is continuing to maintain his strong stance against domestic violence abusers.
That’s why the Patriots absolutely will not even consider drafting Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon next month, according to a source. The controversial but talented back has been erased from their draft board because of his violent past.
Kraft declined to speak specifically about Mixon this week when approached about the subject, but he did note his stance against domestic violence abusers that can be traced back to Christian Peter in 1996.
“While I believe in second chances and giving players an opportunity for redemption, I also believe that playing in the NFL is a privilege, not a right,” Kraft told the Herald. “For me, personally, I believe that privilege is lost for men who have a history of abusing women.”
Kraft and his wife, Myra, demanded Peter be released in the days following the 1996 draft. Bill Parcells selected the Nebraska defensive tackle who had been accused of a long list of violent crimes against women, and the Krafts learned of those allegations shortly after the draft.
In 2014, Kraft also said the Patriots wouldn’t sign running back Ray Rice, who had been suspended by the NFL and released by the Ravens after he punched his soon-to-be wife in an Atlantic City casino elevator. Rice never landed another NFL job.
Mixon is the most controversial and polarizing prospect in the 2017 draft class. He pled guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge in 2014 when he punched a woman in the head in a restaurant. Oklahoma suspended Mixon for the 2014 season, but the incident gained significantly more notoriety in December when the video became public.
The Patriots surely won’t be the only team to remove Mixon from their draft board, but the expectation around the league is he’ll be selected because of his talent. The recent comparison involved the Chiefs’ decision to use a fifth-round pick on wide receiver Tyreek Hill last year. Hill pled guilty to domestic assault and battery by strangulation for an incident in 2014 with his pregnant girlfriend.
Mixon rushed for 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns and caught 65 passes for 894 yards and nine scores in two seasons since his suspension. He returned to the national spotlight last season with 187 carries for 1,274 yards (6.8 yards per carry) and 10 touchdowns along with 37 catches for 538 yards and five touchdowns.
After the video surfaced in December, Mixon closed down his college career with 180 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns in Oklahoma’s 35-19 victory against Auburn in the Sugar Bowl. The 6-foot-1, 226-pound 20-year-old was arguably the best player on the field in his finale between two impressively talented teams, but Mixon also egged on the crowd as it loudly booed him on nearly every carry.
Meanwhile, the Patriots might be in the market for a running back with Dion Lewis and James White in the final year of their contracts and Rex Burkhead on a one-year deal. By ability alone, Mixon would likely offer tremendous value to whichever team decides to call his name because he has been viewed as a player with first-round talent. But domestic violence is a nonstarter for Kraft and the Patriots.
It’s also likely why the Pats haven’t been directly connected to running back Adrian Peterson this offseason, although Peterson’s case is somewhat different to Mixon. Peterson, a free agent for the first time in his career, was suspended for the final 15 games of the 2014 season after he was indicted on child abuse charges, but he played two more seasons before the Vikings opted out of his contract last month. The Patriots have not expressed any interest in Peterson in the first three weeks of free agency.
Kraft’s long-running stance against domestic violence abusers has been noteworthy in its consistency during a time when the issue has gained increasing levels of attention.
Most recently, the Giants initially chose to defend kicker Josh Brown in 2016 despite his one-game suspension for a domestic violence arrest in 2015. The Giants ultimately accepted responsibility for their “misguided” approach when they released Brown. The NFL was also scrutinized over the length of Brown’s suspension on the heels of setting a mandatory six-game ban for domestic violence offenses.
Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti also backed Rice after his incident, and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones continuously supported defensive end Greg Hardy in 2015. Hardy was found guilty for assaulting and threatening his girlfriend in 2014, though the charges were dropped in the appeal process when prosecutors couldn’t locate the victim. The Chiefs obviously overlooked Hill’s past prior to last year’s draft.
Someone will do the same for Mixon next month. It just won’t be the Patriots.