NORMAN — Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon's draft stock is beginning to rise, perhaps all the way to the first round.
After not being invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, Mixon shined at OU's pro day in front of coaches and scouts from various NFL teams, including Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer. Mixon also had meetings with teams to discuss the July 25, 2014, assault incident for which he eventually entered an Alford plea.
After his pro day workout, Mixon said he'd heard some teams had taken him off their board, but was determined to show the NFL that he's worth a pick. Mixon also said that when he made his decision to forgo his final two years of eligibility at OU, he had been told by “scouts” he'd received a first-round grade.
His efforts may be paying off.
ESPN NFL draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. said on ESPN Radio show "Russilo and Kanell" that Mixon has worked his way into the first-round conversation.
“He could be in that late first and early second round. He's kind of in that same range as (Florida State running back) Dalvin Cook,” Kiper said “If Joe Mixon didn't have that significant serious off-the-field issue, then he would be the No. 1 running back in this draft. That's why he's so tempting in the late first round for teams like Oakland, Green Bay and Kansas City, who aren't going to see him late in the second round.”
Speaking with the Transcript Thursday, Mixon agent Peter Schaffer said he has told Mixon not to be consumed about his draft stock. He said he would never tell a player to look at their draft projections. Instead, they should focus on going through the process of getting ready for the NFL.
“It's not even something we've discussed,” Schaffer said. “We just keep moving onto the next opportunity to better himself as a player as a person, a member of his family and the community."
In his most recent mock draft, which came out Wednesday, Kiper has Oakland taking LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White, Kansas City taking East Carolina wide receiver Zay Jones and Green Bay taking Cook in the first round.
Other media personalities are suggesting that Mixon might be a high pick as well.
Skip Bayless, host of "Undisputed" on Fox Sports 1, said, “Baggage aside, if we’re just talking about on the football field who will be the most valuable all-around back in this group, I’m going to go Joe Mixon.”
Last week, Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman wrote there as still teams “highly uncomfortable” with drafting Mixon and even suggested that the NFL “doesn't want Mixon drafted either, feeling it would undermine the league's efforts to curb violence against women.” However, he acknowledged the possibility of Mixon going in the late first round, saying “some teams say no player is moving up draft boards faster than Mixon.”
One thing that could dent Mixon's stock is the fact he's a part of a strong running back draft class. Stanford's Christian McCaffrey, LSU's Leonard Fournette and Cook are all expected to be taken in the first round.
Mixon, at least, is entering the conversation.