With the first pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, the Cleveland Browns selected quarterback Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma. The pick was sort of a surprise because of all the smoke put out there before the draft. But it was not a surprise to me in terms of his merit as the No. 1 pick. Mayfield was my No. 2 rated quarterback in the draft class and right there with Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold in my rankings. I believed all three were franchise-level quarterbacks, so I was excited and happy with the selection. And this was without saying that many draft experts had the Oklahoma quarterback as their top quarterback in the class.
So with Mayfield as the Browns possible future franchise quarterback, what can we expect from the new quarterback? Over the next couple days, I will examine Mayfield and break down his strengths and weaknesses using film from college days. In part one of the film room, I will examine the strengths of the Oklahoma quarterback. With that, let’s take a look at the strengths of quarterback Baker Mayfield.
Accuracy to All Levels of the Field
Mayfield was the most accurate quarterback in the entire draft class. He has the ability to throw to all levels of the field with pinpoint accuracy. According to Pro Football Focus, he led the class in adjusted completion percentage at 80.6%. He shows the ability not just to throw completions, but also to put the ball in the right spot on the pass catcher. Let’s take a look at this on the film to illustrate his accuracy at each level of the field.
The first clip is Mayfield versus Ohio State in a red zone situation. After his first option was not there, he started to scramble, but then saw his running back leak out on the left sideline. Mayfield fired the ball with good velocity to fit it in the tight window between the linebacker in man coverage and the corner closing in. He threw it perfectly, all while he was moving and about to get hit.
The second clip is from the same game at Ohio State. Mayfield took the snap and faked the handoff to the running back. He was then met with immediate pressure. The quarterback scrambled around the pocket and escaped to the left. He finds a receiver open on the sideline. While on the move and about to get hit, Mayfield fires a seed right at the first down marker. He throws to the outside where only the receiver can get it. Though the receiver drops it, the pass was a catchable pinpoint throw.
The third clip is probably one of Mayfield’s best throws in college. The situation is a red zone play versus TCU. The focus of the play is on the tight end in the slot, who starts running a slant to inside but then cuts back to streak down the middle of the field. The coverage here is pretty good. The linebacker stays tight to the back inside hip of the tight end. The safety on the left side of the field also converges on the tight end. But, Mayfield throws the perfect pass where only his man can get it. He throws above the head of the linebacker, not allowing the safety to be in on the play. Mayfield knew he threw it where it would be either a touchdown or an incompletion. He knew his tight end had the length advantage on the linebacker. He placed the pass perfectly to the outstretched hands of the tight end.
The final play is versus Oklahoma State. This play shows off not only his accuracy but also his strong arm and his eyes. Mayfield takes the snap and immediately looks at the middle of the field, keeping the safety in the middle of the field. This leaves the receiver on the right in single man coverage. Mayfield quickly turns his attention to that receiver and launches a 50-yard throw to the receiver. He throws away from the defender and into a position the receiver can run after the catch for a touchdown.
Mayfield is one of the smartest quarterbacks and, in my opinion, the best decision maker in the draft class. Last season, he only had six interceptions in 285 pass attempts and 14 interceptions over the course of the past two years at Oklahoma. He mastered the RPO in Oklahoma’s offense. He makes smart pre-snap reads and when the ball is snapped, his decision-making is quick and decisive. Here are a couple plays that show his intelligence and decision-making ability.
The first play is in the Rose Bowl against Georgia. This play shows his ability to read the defense and make the right decision in an RPO situation. When the ball is snapped, he first fakes a handoff to the crossing receiver. The next part is the key to this play. Mayfield initiates the handoff with the running back, keeping it in the runner’s stomach for as long as possible to fool the defense and to read what the defense is doing to defend it. Mayfield sees that the defender covering the fullback on the left end of the line is trained on the run to the right, which allowed the fullback to slip past him. Mayfield sees that and pulls the ball out of the running back’s grip and fires a quick pass over the head of that defender and before the safety over the top. His quick read makes that play successful.
The second play is another RPO, this time against Ohio State. The play is almost exactly like the previous one. This time there is no crossing receiver. Mayfield takes the snap and fakes the handoff to the running back. The fullback on the left end of the line does a good job faking like he will block for the run, leading the linebacker fully thinking this is a run play. But, the fullback cuts past the linebacker and out for a streak route. Mayfield quickly sees that and pulls the ball away from the running back, firing the pass to the fullback for a good gain.
The last play is just a good pre-snap read by Mayfield against Ohio State. Ohio State brings the safety on left side of the field up to blitz off the edge. Mayfield sees this and does exactly what you are supposed to do. Throw it quickly and to the area where the blitzer vacated. When the ball is snapped, Mayfield retreats backward almost immediately to try and give a little bit of time for the play to develop. He is waiting for the fullback, who was lined up in the right slot back spot, to spill out of the backfield and run into the vacated zone. When the fullback gets there, Mayfield fires the pass for a big gain.
Eyes/Using the whole field
Mayfield uses the entire field to his advantage, going through his progressions to find an open receiver. But, he uses his eyes extremely well to deceive the defense and get them into a vulnerable position. The quarterback can move defenders with eyes to get a throwing lane open. Here are some examples of this ability.
The first play is from the Rose Bowl versus Georgia. The key part of this play is the tight end on the right end of the line and the Georgia linebacker lined up on the left side of the line. The tight end is running a post corner post route. Mayfield takes the snap and immediately looks to the left side of the field. This makes the linebacker in charge of covering the right side of the field to take a few steps inside and lose focus on where the tight end is running. It also makes the defender who slipped back as the deep safety in the play to remain on the left side of the field, rather than more of central post where he could have been in a position to help defend the pass. But, Mayfield deceived the defense and gave his tight end a nice zone to run into for an easy completion. The tight end runs behind the linebacker and is free to make the catch without the threat of the deep safety.
The second play is against Iowa State. Oklahoma is running a wheel route for the running back right of Mayfield. Mayfield takes the snap and fakes the handoff to the running back on the left of him. This gets the weakside linebacker to bite on the handoff and run himself out of the play. Mayfield then looks quickly at the receiver on the right running a post route deep down the middle of the field. This attention to that receiver forces the safety on the right side of the field to go with the receiver, leaving the running back on the right sideline wide open for an easy completion.
The final play is against West Virginia. Mayfield sees a single high safety with the West Virginia defense running a zone coverage in the secondary. The two key routes for Oklahoma are the tight end, running a ten yard out route on the left end of the line, and the inside receiver on the right, who is running a deep post route. Mayfield takes the snap and looks immediately at the tight end on the left side of the field. His attention draws the two defenders to cover the tight end underneath and over top. Mayfield then knows he has a one-on-one matchup in the middle of the field between the receiver and the deep safety. He saw pre-snap that the coverage was in zone and that he could get a big advantage between a receiver a safety if he could keep the deep help on the left sideline. He did that and it turned into a huge gain.
One of the most underrated aspects of Mayfield is his natural arm talent. He has a very strong arm with the ability to make any throw on the field. He can put an incredible amount of zip on the ball to fit passes quickly into tight windows. He can also make the touch passes to drop the pass into a constricted area. His ability to make any type of throw needed makes his arm talent really special. Here are some examples of his arm talent.
In the first play versus TCU, Mayfield is focused on throwing the slant route to the receiver on the left side of the field. When the ball is snapped, the receiver gains a little separation from the corner, but the corner is still in range to make a play on the ball. To avoid that possibility, Mayfield throws a fastball to the receiver. He is able to fit the ball in before the corner’s hand reaches out to try and knock the ball away. The fastball allows the receiver to catch and then run for a big gain afterward.
The second play is against Iowa State. The fake handoff by Mayfield helps make this play successful. When he takes the snap and fakes the handoff, the linebackers are stalled for a few seconds. This allows the back out of the backfield to get behind the linebackers. To get the pass to the running back, Mayfield throws the ball with a nice touch to drop it over the top of the linebacker and into the grasps of the back for a touchdown.
The final play is against Texas and it shows the impressive arm strength Mayfield has. Mayfield gets the snap and starts searching for open targets. He scans the field and does see an immediate option. But, he then sees his receiver getting open over the top. He is able to turn his body to set position and launch the ball over 50 yards right into the breadbasket of his receiver for a touchdown. He did not have time to patiently set his feet and put his entire body in the throw, but he still threw it over 50 yards on target.
Pocket Mobility/Throwing on the Run
Mayfield is a solid athlete who has the ability to move around the pocket and backfield to extend the play. He can use his legs to make plays as a runner, but he uses his mobility most importantly to extend his time in the backfield to find open receivers. He knows how to move around and find time and space to throw the ball. And he finishes off these sorts of plays with accurate passes. Mayfield’s ability to complete passes on the run is a strong attribute. His pocket mobility and accuracy on the run make him very difficult to contain. Here are some examples of his mobility and ability to throw on the run.
The first play comes against TCU. When Mayfield takes the snap, he almost immediately gets pressure from the right edge as the rusher completely torches the right tackle around the edge. Mayfield, though, makes a subtle move up in the pocket to avoid the rusher and earn him some more time to throw. After moving up in the pocket, he shuffles quickly to the left to find an open throwing lane. He does all this while he keeps his eyes downfield, allowing him to find the tight end for a completion.
The second play here against Texas shows how he can make plays with his feet as a runner. When he receives the snap, Mayfield instantly gets pressure directly in his face from a blitzing linebacker through the right A gap. Without hesitation, the quarterback is able to move and avoid the blitzer, causing the defender to run past him. Once he gets his eyes back up to survey the field, he sees the middle of the field wide open. So, he escapes the pocket and gains a first down on a nice scramble.
The last play comes against Iowa State. Mayfield begins the play with a fake handoff and is threatened quickly by a rusher coming on his right side. Mayfield eludes the rusher and starts to scramble outside of the pocket to the right. He does this with his eyes continuing to look downfield for open receivers. He finds the tight end on the right sideline open, firing an accurate pass on the run to the tight end. The pass was placed well enough to allow the tight end to run after the catch for a little more yards. This play showed his mobility and his ability to throw on the run.