Pre-draft visit indicates Packers had not ruled out picking Joe Mixon


GREEN BAY, Wis. — Even if Joe Mixon had been allowed to participate at the NFL scouting combine, there’s a good chance the Green Bay Packers would have brought him to town for a pre-draft visit anyway.

“You’re not going to pick somebody based on what he tells you in a 10-minute interview,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said earlier this month at the combine. “It’s an opportunity to communicate, interact, and from that you gather information. I’m always so impressed with our area scouts and our college director and our personnel department, how well they know these guys and how well they know their background. So this is just part of the process.”

And another part of the process apparently was Mixon’s visit to the Packers. The NFL Network reported that the Oklahoma running back who was barred from the combine because of his off-the-field conduct when he met with the Packers this week.

In 2014, Mixon punched a woman at a bar, accepted a plea deal with one year of probation, counseling and 100 hours of community service. The school suspended him for his freshman season. Video of the incident, which showed Mixon throwing the punch that broke four bones in the woman’s face, was released in December.

Mixon has been on the visit trail since early March.

It makes sense on several levels that the Packers would perform their due diligence on Mixon. On pure talent, he’s one of the top running backs in a draft that’s rich with possible stars at the position. Mixon rushed for 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns in his two seasons at Oklahoma. Earlier this month, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said he gave serious thought to going with Mixon to the Packers in his latest mock draft. Instead, Kiper went with another running back, Florida State’s Dalvin Cook. The Packers met with Cook at the combine.

NFL teams are allowed 60 formal interviews at the combine and 30 pre-draft visits for non-local players.

When asked at the combine whether Mixon should have been allowed to attend, Packers general manager Ted Thompson essentially dodged the question: “That’s a very complicated question. I’ll answer it to a degree, and there’s certain parts I can’t answer because it’s above my paygrade. There are decisions made amongst the powers that be that certain people can come and certain people … I don’t even know who is supposed to be here and who is not. But that’s not for me to say. The NFL and the National Football Scouting are in charge of that. I don’t know how to answer that. I know that wasn’t a very good answer. I’m not in the position of making that decision.”

Nevertheless, it behooves Thompson to get as much information on Mixon as possible, especially given the Packers’ gigantic need at running back. Both Thompson and McCarthy left no doubt this week at the NFL annual meetings that they will add to the position that currently has only two players — Ty Montgomery and Christine Michael.

Earlier this week, reports surfaced that the Patriots removed Mixon from their draft board. It’s possible the Packers could follow suit but having him in for a visit indicated they had not reached that point yet.

“It’s part of the process,” McCarthy said at the combine of meeting draft prospects. “You trust your scouts, you trust all the information you’ve gathered, and you make your decision.”

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