Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon is back in the news once again, and not for a good reason. The police have reportedly charged Mixon with aggravated menacing after the inclusion of additional evidence, which all-but confirms the former second-round pick will not be with the organization in 2023. Mixon’s legal troubles aside, the Bengals are going to need to find another starting-caliber running back. As of this posting, the only other running backs on the roster are Chris Evans and Trayveon Williams, so it’s safe to assume Cincinnati is going to want a more proven option.
Top 5 Players That Could Replace Joe Mixon
The Cincinnati Bengals are in the midst of their championship window, which means that they shouldn’t entrust their entire backfield to a young or unproven player. While most of the big-name free agent running backs are already gone, Ezekiel Elliott is still available and has enough left in his tank for one or two more seasons. While he’s clearly not the player he once was, the former first-round pick can still be a reliable starter in the right system. Nobody wants to give him 300+ touches anymore, but pairing him with a young rookie is probably the best strategy for the Bengals.
The 2023 NFL Draft class is absolutely loaded with running back talent, so it shouldn’t be too hard for the Bengals to find a reliable rookie to pair with a new veteran. While it is possible that the team addresses the position with their first-round pick, they might be better off waiting until the end of the second round to get Zach Charbonnet. Much like Joe Mixon in his prime, Charbonnet is a ferocious downhill runner that blasts through defenders with ease, racking up yards after the catch and converting short-yardage and red zone touches on a consistent basis. On top of all that, he also has a reliable pair of hands that will let him see the field on all three downs.
Zach Charbonnet has good feet for a big powerful back. He navigates traffic well, has a smooth jump cut, and can get in and out of short areas better than expected. He's my RB3 in this class. I enjoy watching his game quite a bit pic.twitter.com/ATOiFXDSJp
— Daniel Harms🏈 (@InHarmsWay19) March 31, 2023
There is a chance Charbonnet is off the board by the time the Bengals are on the clock, but if that happens ,they could end up drafting a dramatically different running back in Devon Achane. At 5′-9″ and 185 pounds, Achane is smaller than your typical starting running back, but he has the skills to thrive in the right offense. There is a strong case to be made that he is the fastest running back in the draft, and his elite speed makes him a threat to score every single time he touches the ball. As long as Joe Burrow and Ja’Marr Chase are in town, opposing defenses will always be worried about stopping the pass first and foremost, and Achane is the perfect player to take advantage of those lighter boxes. If he gets a clear running lane, nobody’s catching him.
Alternatively, the Bengals could decide to bring in a proven veteran in the prime of his career. Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook recently underwent shoulder surgery and should be in the best shape of his career. The veteran running back carries a massive cap hit and, combined with the fact that the team re-signed Alexander Mattison, it’s safe to assume that Cook will not be with the Vikings next year. If the Bengals trade for Cook, they’d only be responsible for a portion of his 2023 cap hit, and they’d get a player that is probably better than Joe Mixon.
Los Angeles Chargers running back Austin Ekeler is not happy with his current team. The former undrafted free agent wants a new contract, and perhaps the Bengals would be willing to give him one. However, the question then becomes if the Chargers would trade Ekeler to a conference rival. The Chargers and Bengals are two of the best five teams in the AFC, and both teams should have Super Bowl aspirations in 2023. The Bengals would probably need to give up a decent amount in draft compensation to make a trade happen, and it’s unlikely Cincinnati values Ekeler that highly when there are so many other options available.
Main Photo: Sam Greene – USA Today Sports