L ike a running back sidestepping a tackler, the Eagles front office has consistently juked past the question of whether Joe Mixon, a talented football player most famous for breaking the face of a woman half his size, has a spot on their draft board this week.
It's a fair question, and some NFL teams had no problem answering it. Robert Kraft, the New England owner, said the view of the Patriots organization is that Mixon, a running back from Oklahoma, had forfeited his right to play in the league by his actions. Of course, maybe it's easy to have high ideals when you keep tripping over Super Bowl trophies around the office.
For their part, the Eagles haven't signaled their willingness to take on Mixon and his baggage. That's either because they don't want to show their hand about anything, because they really haven't decided yet, or because there is always a tipping point as the draft moves along in which risk gives way to reward. Look, once you bring in a guy who killed puppy dogs, it's pretty clear that everything is negotiable.
"It doesn't serve us any purpose to talk about particular guys and whether they're on our board or not," Howie Roseman, who will make the final call on draft selections, said. "Each case, you have to judge individually. You've got to do your research. You've got to go through the whole process. We talked about having an unbelievable security team . . . and so we'll get all the information and make a decision like anything else."
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In this case, the decision goes above even Roseman's pay grade, all the way to owner Jeffrey Lurie, who has a Ph.D. in social policy and likes to swing it around. Sending a woman to the hospital for eight hours of surgery to repair a broken jaw and numerous other facial fractures is usually considered poor social policy, but, again, these things are sometimes judged on a curve that factors in 40-yard dash time. Lurie, speaking in general terms, not specifically about Mixon, cleared things up by saying the Eagles value character, but have also shown they believe in granting a second chance. So, apparently, it kind of depends on the day.
Without a mark on his off-field resumé, Mixon would be a high first-round pick in the NFL draft that will begin Thursday on the Parkway. After the incident, which resulted in a one-year suspension from football - and a deferred misdemeanor sentence that called for community service and "cognitive behavioral counseling" - Mixon's draft stock would have dipped on some team boards, but perhaps not that much. After all, he was barely 18 when the incident happened, had come back to play two very good seasons afterward, and didn't get into further trouble. (That's if you don't count the time he got a parking ticket and screamed at the female ticket writer, or the allegation that Mixon also hit a girl in high school.)
Almost all of that would have blown over for Mixon if the restaurant near campus where he hit the woman didn't have a security camera system in place. Even in Norman, Okla., where players run wild and live free, that sort of thing will eventually get you. It took two years and a pending civil lawsuit filed by the victim, but the video surfaced at the end of last year. As was the case with Ray Rice of the Ravens, Mixon has found that teams can get past what you did. They just can't get past having people see what you did. The video of Mixon putting a straight right hand through that young woman's face is devastating, and every general manager in the NFL knows that the team calling Mixon's name this week will immediately be seeing a lot of it.
The result is that Mixon will now fall way beyond the position in the draft where his talent would normally be slotted. He ran for 2,027 yards and caught passes for another 894 yards in his two seasons, scoring 27 touchdowns in 25 games for Oklahoma. He is just the kind of three-down back the Eagles could use to fill out their complement of offensive weapons for Carson Wentz. If they choose to ignore Mixon's past, the Eagles will likely have a shot at him with their second-round pick, the 43rd in the draft, or even with their third-round pick, the 99th in the draft.
Player personnel bosses will begin to eye each other somewhere between those two picks, and there will come that point at which they tell themselves a case can be made to the fans that it was worth the risk. You might not like him on video, but wait until he punches his way into the end zone.
The NFL would just as soon he not be drafted. To be honest, the league would be happy if he just went away. If it were possible to keep him out - which the NFL did at the scouting combine - that would happen. But it isn't possible, and the marketplace being what it is, a team will gulp and then draft Joe Mixon to represent its organization and its city.
Let's hope it isn't the Eagles and Philadelphia, and it would be nice if Lurie came out ahead of time and said it won't be. It's easy to be a social hero after the fact. This is a moment when it would be better if the team stood for something other than expediency. Just because they aren't exactly tripping over their own Super Bowl trophies doesn't mean that a bargain is really a bargain if it costs your self-respect.