Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield is going in the top ten of the NFL draft, or isn’t worth bringing onto your team, depending on who you ask. Some have gone as far as to say he’s “the next Johnny Manziel” which was a contributing factor to Kyle Crabbs of NDT Scouting writing an entire article on Mayfield’s character and if comparison to Manziel were justifiable.
Others have called him the next Drew Brees as The Advocate’s Ted Lewis writes , while Saints star QB himself has said “I’ve never met Baker Mayfield, so I can’t say I know him, but in following his career, I really respect what he’s been able to accomplish.” He would go on to add, “It’s that type of guy, based upon his career, based upon the fact that there have been many who did not give him an opportunity, told him all the things he couldn’t do that’s motivated him, inspired him, made him, molded him into the person that he is.”
But who is Mayfield? He was a walk-on at Texas Tech in 2013. After winning the starting job (expected starter Michael Brewer went down with an injury before the season) he was injured against Kansas and missed two games.
Following what many considered a good season as a freshman starter, Mayfield was not offered a scholarship for the spring semester so he announced he would be transfer (Per Mayfield). After sitting out 2014, he won the starting job with the Sooners before the start of the 2015 season. Three years later he’s become a NFL prospect whose film points to potential success, but that doesn’t mean questions aren’t there.
His ability to read the field pre-snap, make adjustments at the line and read coverages and post snap keys all look to be strengths. Mechanically, there is a good throwing motion mixed with choppy footwork. His passes display desired velocity, touch, anticipation and the elite level of accuracy he’s become known for.
The below scouting report details the strengths and weaknesses of Mayfield on film through four games of the 2017 season.
Of the positives listed above, one of the easiest to spot on tape (and statistically) is Mayfield’s accuracy. The Heisman trophy winner is coming off two straight seasons of 70.0%+ completion percentage while also having one of the higher drop rates of this year’s QB class as Ian Wharton pointed out (his charting shows 5.16% of passes were dropped)
Benjamin Solak, of NDT Scouting, describes Mayfield this way: “This data helps illustrate why Baker is so special–not just because he’s incredible accurate, but because he isn’t just a JUGS machine. He isn’t accurate from the pocket, to his first read, without pressure, from a clean platform–no, he’s accurate everywhere.
The data he is referring to is from his contextualized charting of fourteen games of Mayfield’s career in which he meticulously broke down every throw Baker made and places them in five categories:
As you can see, it isn’t just in clean pockets with simple pre-snap reads where Mayfield finds success. In what seems a unique oddity, his interceptable passing percentage actually decreases when he’s on the move/in the scramble drill. Some QBs struggle in chaos. Baker sees chaos as a ladder.
Let’s take a look at some of the throws the Sooners’ QB was able to make during the 2017 season. To start, here is an example of what we’ve discussed above. Baker is able to avoid pressure on the roll out and makes an accurate touch pass on the move to his right.
This play comes against a Ohio State secondary that will likely once again have selections in the top 50 of the NFL Draft. Mayfield’s athletic ability, touch, and accuracy on the move are all on display. He not only hits his receiver in stride, but is able to drop it over the top of the Ohio State defender.
While accuracy is extremely important, another touted skill of incoming NFL QBs is arm strength. Coaches, NFL Execs and fans all desire the guy who can make the “big throw”. If this is a trait you desire, it’s one he can give you. Against Texas we see him showcase his ability to read, pull and attack deep over the top on a post route.
60+ yards through the air is a good way of showing off arm strength. Any quarterback that can throw the ball as far as Matt Prater can kick it provides their team with a unique threat. Teams that utilize play action passes in regular rotation would be playing to multiple strengths he displayed while with the Sooners. As listed in the above scouting report, Baker sells play action pass well and uses his athletic ability in roll-outs/fakes showing good bend in his lower body while keeping the ball held close and secure at the numbers. Quickly resets his base and releases an accurate pass.
Solak’s numbers also highlight a player who steps his game up in key situations. 3rd Down and in the red zone were areas of strength For Mayfield as well. Situational football is usually an area many players (especially at QB) can struggle with early on. Ben adds “Don’t overlook Baker the gamer. When adjusting for drops and defensive pass interference calls, Baker’s conversion percentage on both 3rd/4th down and 3rd/4th down (5+ yards to go) are above 50%–and against adjusted for drops/DPIs, over half of Baker’s throws in the red zone accounted for a TD/2 pt conversion.
In these moments of situational football you need a player with the mental acuity to process the field and make a good decision in tighter windows than they’ll experience between the 20s. As the above graphic details, interceptable passes take another drop in red zone situations, while the conversion rate, ball placement and accuracy all improve. In an area of the field notorious for tight windows and difficult throws Baker saw his best football.
One final play we’ll present is a throw to the back of the end zone along the seem to a tight end. The ball must be placed in a location that only his receiver can get to it while also leaving enough room for the receiver to get in bounds before going out the back of the end zone.
He not only accomplishes this by diagnosing the coverage pre-snap (sees middle of the field open, spots the matchup advantage in the tight end along the seam), but by also being aware of the opposite side safety as he takes a moment in his drop to spot where he is to make sure he can’t come across the field to jump the pass.
The touch, anticipation and overall accuracy of the pass are all qualities we’ve mentioned before when discussing Mayfield. This doesn’t mean there aren’t flaws in his game. There have been concerns expressed over his height (officially measured in at 6003, 216 lbs with 9 1⁄2 inch hands), the scheme he played in at Oklahoma (spread system) and that his conference isn’t necessarily known for producing many starters at the position.
The truth is, the spread concepts we see run in college have been a part of the NFL for quite some time now, and while no team is a purely spread team, this is more due to the complexity of NFL offenses than any “ineffectiveness” some might say the spread has in the big leagues.
As far as quarterbacks who have had success goes, the list isn’t long. However, there are names like Sam Bradford, Ryan Tannehill and others who have come out of the Big 12 and found success at the professional level.
Ultimately what every team will have to decide is if Baker fits their plan for the future and if his positives are worth them selecting him with their first round pick. Some say he will go in the top 10 while others claim he will fall to the end of the first based on other issues. On whether Mayfield would like to come to New Orleans and play for the Saints, he said “I would love that,” Mayfield said, according to The Times-Picayune. “To be able to learn under him for however long he plays, I’d love that [and] to get a chance to be in New Orleans, a good franchise.”