Yesterday was certainly an…interesting day of the draft for the AFC North, and one that provided a study in contrasts. While the Cincinnati Bengals and the Baltimore Ravens favored on-field talent in the face of legitimate off-field concerns with some of their draft picks, the Pittsburgh Steelers valued character heavily in their own, arguably in contrast with their on-field value.
The Bengals and Ravens will be praised for adding potential first-round talents to their roster in the form of running back Joe Mixon and linebacker Tim Williams, respectively, but those additions would have been viewed much more differently in Pittsburgh, and no doubt were valued differently in the Steelers’ war room.
Back in 2014, Mixon was charged with assault after striking a woman that left her with facial fractures that required surgery to repair. The incident was caught on video, and I don’t think I need to remind you how important a fact that is in the perception of the incident.
The Bengals have lately proven impervious to visual evidence, however, after Owner Mike Brown stood by Adam Jones following his January arrest, after which was released dashcam footage of the cornerback behaving very poorly and, among other things, telling the arresting officer that he hopes he dies.
Mixon was involved in an incident of a different nature just last year after he blew up at a parking attendant over a ticket he received, ripping it up and throwing it into her face while attempting intimidate her. He was suspended one game by his school, and sources said that this incident for many teams demonstrated a pattern of behavior that removed him from their draft boards.
Not the Bengals’ of course, nor were the Ravens dissuaded from taking Williams, who has multiple failed drug tests in his background, in addition to a misdemeanor charge for possession of a weapon. His substance abuse issues have drawn comparisons to Randy Gregory.
It should be noted that the Steelers did bring in Williams for a pre-draft visit. Some of us even mocked him to the Steelers a time or two. ultimately, however, the team did not opt to delve into his sort of issues—they have others of their own.
Instead, they took a leap and drafted James Conner in the third round of the draft, which is higher than the vast majority of people believed he would go. It is regarded as a reach—though I don’t think it’s as big of a reach as many are saying—but one thing you will never have to worry about is causing problems for the team off the field or in the locker room.
For Mixon especially, he may not be going into the right environment to actually help himself, yet the Bengals are exactly the sort of team that would have drafted him. The Ravens have a strong locker room, though one that could be conducive to some negative behavior if the wrong elements were introduced.
It will be interesting to see how Mixon and Williams shape the Bengals’ and Ravens’ paths on and off the field going forward, and if they will be rewarded for being the teams who were willing to offer an opportunity for redemption for some of the biggest character red flags in the draft, who are now in the AFC North.