Don’t bet against Baker Mayfield

NCAA Football, NFL Draft

Last year’s Heisman Trophy winner is an intriguing study for the NFL Draft, so how does Baker Mayfield translate to the NFL and can he defy the Heisman curse?

A couple of years ago, if you told me Baker Mayfield would be a future first round pick, I would have told you were crazy. The former walk-on at Texas Tech was a big surprise when he started the season opener for the Red Raiders. After an injury saw him lose his job to future NFL Draft pick Davis Webb and 2017 first rounder Patrick Mahomes added to the roster, Mayfield transferred to Oklahoma for an opportunity.

The rest is history.

Mayfield was a two-time finisher in the top five of Heisman voting before finishing as the winner in 2017 after leading the Sooners to the College Football Playoff. Mayfield has defied the odds and proved his doubters wrong every step of the way, and here’s why I think he’ll continue to do that in the NFL.

Baker Mayfield, Quarterback, Oklahoma

Mayfield is the most confident quarterback in the draft and plays with a chip on his shoulder the size of Mount Everest. The former walk-on turned Heisman winner had one of the best college careers a quarterback has ever had. I think he’ll be able to translate his success to the NFL because of his compete level and his desire to be great.

He has a compact, albeit a lower release but puts some serious zip on his delivery and rarely misses his intended target. Mayfield excelled in Lincoln Riley’s system and put up monstrous numbers where he was able to throw in wide open windows and pick teams apart with the deep ball. But he’s more than just a deep-ball passer and can be accurate at every level of the passing game.

What I love about Mayfield is he’s able to manipulate the pocket. He played behind one of the best lines in college last year at Oklahoma, but he still had to show off his escapability and his improvisation skills. He’s most comfortable in a clean pocket, like all quarterbacks, but Mayfield can really dazzle when he’s on the move.

He’s not a running quarterback, but he can escape for a few yards and pick up a first down when receivers and the defense is chased downfield.

The biggest knocks on Mayfield are that he doesn’t have prototypical size at 6’1″ and 215 pounds, but he’s not small. He’s got a sturdy base and is bigger than Drew Brees, Russell Wilson and thicker than Kirk Cousins and Alex Smith. His size concerns just may be overblown because his fellow draftees, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen and Josh Rosen all have prototypical size for the position.

Some teams may have concerns about his ability to deliver balls in small windows, which he rarely had to do in Oklahoma’s spread offense and against Big 12 defenses.

And some will have questions about whether he’s too cocky for his own good. He plays with an edge and a chip on his shoulder, but I think that’s a positive and believe his teammates can rally behind that edge. As long as he plays within himself and harnesses it, he can use that to his advantage.

Bottom line, I think Mayfield can be a starter for a long time in the league, but I wonder if he’ll be a quarterback who is a perennial Pro Bowler. I think he can be a better-than-average signal-caller and if he’s in a system that accentuates his skill-set, that ceiling goes up a few floors.

Draft Projection: Top 15

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