Published On: Fri, Apr 27th, 2018

Baker Mayfield: The No. 1 pick who doesn't fit the mold

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Baker Mayfield is not like other first overall picks. He doesn’t look like a first overall pick. He doesn’t talk like a first overall pick. He wasn’t recruited as other first overall picks have been.

But breaking the mold is something Mayfield is used to.

Prior to Thursday morning, few expected the Cleveland Browns to select the former Oklahoma quarterback. Josh Allen and Sam Darnold were the two signal-callers rumored to be the choice instead.

But alas, Mayfield was the pick, adding another chapter to his underdog story. Maybe his uniqueness is just what Cleveland needs to return to relevance after just two winning seasons this century.


Since 2003, 11 quarterbacks have been selected first overall, including Mayfield. When examining the other ten players, interesting trends emerge.

Matthew Stafford is the only No. 1 quarterback under 6-foot-4, and only Alex Smith is under 220 lbs. Mayfield stands just over 6-feet tall, weighing 215 lbs.

Mayfield played in the Big 12, a conference not known for its defensive schemes. He thrived in Lincoln Riley’s spread-attack, torching NCAA opponents on a weekly basis. Of the 10 first overall quarterbacks since 2003, eight came from either SEC or PAC-12 schools, and only one other (Sam Bradford) was from the Big 12.

The Austin, Texas native was not widely recruited like his peers. The last six first overall quarterbacks were top-20 recruits at their position – either 4- or 5-star prospects – with four of them coming in as top-10 QB recruits, and two ranked No. 1 at the position. Mayfield was ESPN’s 69th-ranked signal-caller in the 2013 cycle and walked on at Texas Tech before transferring. No player has arguably climbed as high as the former Sooner has on his way to the top overall selection.


We’ve already established Mayfield is not like other No. 1 picks, but is that necessarily a bad thing?

The former Heisman Trophy winner does not possess Andrew Luck’s football IQ and he doesn’t have Carson Palmer or Matthew Stafford’s arm strength. But none of this matters, as Mayfield is the poster boy of the “new NFL.” Accuracy, quick decisions, and completing short passing patterns are his greatest strengths.

During the 2017 NFL season, only three starting quarterbacks averaged more than 10 yards in the air per attempt, according to Next Gen Stats. Quick passes have replaced a number of run concepts in playbooks.

In his final season at Oklahoma, one-third of Mayfield’s passes were either bubble screens, quick outs, quick ins, or slant patterns. According to Pro Football Focus, no NCAA passer was more accurate or more productive on these throws.

But Mayfield can air it out when the situation presents itself. Twenty-two percent of his targets in 2017 occurred on go routes, and the new Browns quarterback earned a 124.1 rating on these passes, per PFF.

As the Browns attempt to rebuild once again, this current regime will live and die with its 2018 No. 1 overall pick. His flashy demeanor, small stature, and underdog mentality are extremely uncommon for a franchise quarterback, but even more so for a first overall draft pick.

Mayfield doesn’t fit the narrative, but destroying narratives is all he has ever done. And he does it well.



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