Would you be OK with your team drafting Joe Mixon?
Most observers -- including Mike Mayock, the lead NFL Draft analyst for the NFL Network -- believe that the decision will ultimately be made at the ownership level. Every talent evaluator around the league knows that the Oklahoma running back could be a difference-maker, but no team is going to draft him unless the owner is comfortable withstanding the backlash that is sure to follow his selection.
The video of Mixon punching a woman in 2014 was released to the public in December, and the images were upsetting, to say the least (the young woman suffered a fracture to the orbital bone in her face). Mixon was suspended from the team for a year, but he returned in 2015, leaving Sooners coach Bob Stoops to answer some uncomfortable questions.
Now, how would you feel if your team selected Mixon in April's NFL Draft?
League owners will want to have some idea of the reaction to drafting Mixon. They know that plenty of criticism will come with such a move. But how the fans -- their fans -- would feel about such a decision is probably what matters the most to them.
I was surprised at some of the responses I got from listeners to my SiriusXM NFL Radio show recently when I asked for their feelings on the subject. The first 10 to call in all agreed that they would have no problem whatsoever if their team drafted Mixon. They used words like "second chances" and "rehabilitation."
But 10 callers to a radio station is not a large enough sample size to draw any conclusions. Also, callers to a morning NFL-only radio show in late February may not be representative of the majority of the NFL fans.
Throughout the rest of the morning, there were a few others that called in and expressed a different opinion.
"Jay in New Jersey" wouldn't want his team to draft Mixon because he wouldn't want to cheer for a guy who did what he did, saying it just wouldn't feel right.
"Sharod in Virginia" likewise didn't want his team to take Mixon because then he could potentially be a role model for his children and Mixon is not worthy of that adoration.
There were a couple of others that had somewhat similar reasoning for not wanting Mixon on their team, or in some cases, in the league at all. But over the course of four hours, those in favor greatly outnumbered those who were opposed.
That might be good news for Mixon, as owners attempt to take the pulse of the fans and what their reaction will be. They already know the disturbing 2014 video will air on local news channels and must be prepared. But if a large percentage of their core fans are OK with Mixon getting a second chance with an NFL team, then some owners could potentially see value in selecting Mixon later in the draft, since he'd presumably still be available. And if there's one thing all rich guys in general like, it's value.
Just ask the Kansas City Chiefs how much value wide receiver and kick returner Tyreek Hill delivered last season, who had more than 1,800 all-purpose yards and 12 touchdowns. Hill was not drafted until the fifth round, in part because he pled guilty to domestic assault and battery of his pregnant girlfriend in college. As our Andrea Hangst wrote, that past cannot be erased.
Will an owner overlook Mixon's flaws, hoping the backlash from fans won't be too great?
If history is any guide, we already know the answer.