He is one of the most prolific passers in college football history and is putting together one of the most impressive statistical seasons ever. Could Baker Mayfield be the next quarterback of the New York Jets?
Name: Baker Mayfield
2017 Production (so far): 13 games, 262/369 (71.0%), 4340 yards, 11.8 Y/A, 41 pass TD, 5 INT.
Baker Mayfield is one of the most prolific passers in NCAA history, the likely Heisman winner, and possibly a National Championship winner by the end of this year. He’s on pace to break the adjusted yards per attempt record this year by a full yard, a record that was last set in 2016 by… Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield is a natural. Draft season often puts a premium on a player’s physical gifts and potential, but there are certain key skills that rarely see marked improvements once reaching the pro level. For a quarterback these skills are accuracy/ball placement, pocket presence and mentality. These are Mayfield’s standout qualities.
His excellent completion percentage is a fair representation of his ability to consistently throw a well placed, catchable ball. In the short-intermediate range Mayfield is nearly automatic, and his accuracy remains strong through a variety of release points, when he’s on the run, or is reacting to pressure.
Everything Mayfield does is with an aggressive intent. When he drops back, his first thought is to see if the big play is available. When he knows he has a short option open to move the sticks, he will often switch his eyes downfield and only come back to the check down if the chunk play is not on. He has over 300 yards on the ground this year, but his goal in extending plays is always to create something downfield. As a runner he is #gritty, finishing runs with headfirst dives or lowering the shoulder. He even isn’t afraid to stiff arm a defender. He probably shouldn’t do this in the NFL.
Mayfield sees the entire field and shows the patience to work through progressions consistently. He is well versed in using his eyes to manipulate defenders and pump fakes to freeze them. He processes information quickly, rarely locking onto his first read.
His diminutive stature naturally raises questions over his physical tools but his arm strength and athleticism are NFL caliber. He’s not a Russell Wilson or even Johnny Manziel type athlete, but he has excellent pocket instincts, quick feet and runs like a natural ball carrier.
Let’s get the common criticisms out of the way: the Oklahoma website lists Mayfield at 6’1″, 220 pounds but he is almost definitely under six feet tall. It isn’t a problem at Oklahoma with their NFL sized offensive line, but it matters to NFL scouts. Drew Brees and Russell Wilson may be two of the league’s best quarterbacks and under six feet but they both were day two picks.
Most crucial are the concerns over Mayfield off the field and his attitude. Mayfield will be the most scrutinized by far of the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft. In February he was arrested for public intoxication and fleeing the police. He’s a known trash talker and has drawn some headlines for on-the-field antics – he infamously planted the OU flag at Ohio State’s midfield after winning there earlier this season and taunted Kansas by gesturing to his *REMOVED BY ESPN*. A lot of this isn’t really a big deal, and any comparisons to Johnny Manziel are lazy. But teams like their quarterbacks especially to be squeaky clean, and God forbid you as the quarterback are a #Distraction. Like with Manziel, what teams need to find out is if Mayfield’s off the field incident is the surface of a bigger issue that seriously brings into question his reliability and commitment to football, and not just something stupid he did at college.
I've been told by scouts that Mayfield has been timed in high 4.8's/ low 4.9's.
— Daniel Jeremiah (@MoveTheSticks) December 2, 2017
As mentioned in the strengths, Mayfield isn’t in the Russell Wilson stratosphere and he’s not even in the Manziel stratosphere (another reason the comparison is lazy) when we’re talking physical gifts. He has strong functional athleticism for the position, but he’s no dual threat.
The biggest thing with Mayfield on the field is that you’re destined to sometimes get burned by his desire to seek out the big play, and at times he fails to dial back the aggressiveness when the game situation calls for it.
While Mayfield’s placement is quite good and he gets the ball out quickly, he sometimes throws to open receivers rather than anticipating their routes and throwing them open. You can do this with Big 12 sized windows, it is much more likely to be punished in the NFL.
When Mayfield misses deep it tends to be short, giving the defender an opportunity to make a play.
Below is a video from Mark Schofield breaking down Mayfield’s five interceptions this year. To his credit there are several outstanding plays by defenders here, and there is only five all year to breakdown. But as Mark points out, he is most likely to get himself in trouble when he is overaggressive relative to what the situation calls for.
From a roster standpoint, the need is obvious. The Jets have been looking for their franchise quarterback in perpetuity. In terms of scheme, the fit is near perfect. The basis of Mayfield’s game is as a high efficiency short-intermediate passer but he wants to be aggressive and attack teams downfield. The Jets under John Morton are a combination of a traditional West Coast offense with a dose of college style air raid concepts.
Mayfield is a legit first round talent and should absolutely be on the Jets radar, especially after playing out of top 3 pick positioning. The concerns shouldn’t be over size or attitude, but an awful pre-draft process where off-the-field concerns begin to snowball. Unless the Jets have their quarterback situation solved for the foreseeable future heading into draft weekend (possible but unlikely), Mayfield has to be on the shortlist.
Photo Credit: Bleacher Report