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Paving the Way for Baker Mayfield to the Saints

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There is a universe where it could happen, and here’s one such scenario.

Reese's Senior Bowl Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

So you want Oklahoma QB Baker Mayfield on the New Orleans Saints? Well, so do a lot of people out there. Then there are others who would be absolutely against the idea of the Saints drafting the polarizing QB to be the heir behind future Hall of Famer Drew Brees. But to those of you who would like to see it happen, how likely is it? What would it take for everything to fall into place and make it happen?

Of course, the Saints could always mortgage the foreseeable future a la Ricky Williams and trade up for an early pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, but let’s all hope that doesn’t happen, even if you’re a Mayfield supporter. Assuming that option is off the table then, in an ideal hypothetical world, let’s game plan a possible path for Mayfield to end up in New Orleans.

First, we need to look at the NFL teams that absolutely need a starting QB. It’s safe to say there are six teams that fall into this category.

Teams that NEED a starting QB in 2018:

Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals, Minnesota Vikings, New York Jets, Denver Broncos

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Then you’ve got the teams that don’t necessarily need a starter in 2018, but need to start preparing for the future behind a veteran QB. There are roughly five teams that would fit into this group.

Teams that WANT a starting QB for 2018 and beyond:

New York Giants (it’s arguable for the Giants to actually belong in the first group), Pittsburgh Steelers, Baltimore Ravens, Los Angeles Chargers, New Orleans Saints

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Then there are the dark horse teams that could, at any point, decide their current QB option isn’t cutting it and they decide to shift course and go with someone else at the helm.

Teams that could SURPRISE with a QB for 2018/2019:

Miami Dolphins, Cincinnati Bengals, Indianapolis Colts

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Now let’s look at the QBs available in free agency who are guaranteed starters once they sign. There are likely only two that fit into this category.

Free agent starting QBs:

Kirk Cousins, Case Keenum

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But there are also free agent QBs that could be starters if given an opportunity, and that list is a little more fluid.

Free agent QBs that MIGHT sign as starters:

Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater, Tyrod Taylor, Josh McCown

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Then there’s always the dark horse trade candidates that could find themselves as a starter, but they’re not necessarily on the market at the moment that we know of. There’s likely only one QB that falls into this category.

Trade candidate QBs that could be a starter elsewhere:

Nick Foles (PHI)

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So now that we’ve identified which NFL teams need a QB, let’s randomly pair a few of those QB-needy teams with the free agent options from above:

Kirk Cousins - Arizona Cardinals

Washington Redskins v New York Giants Photo by Ed Mulholland/Getty Images

Cousins has already posted on social media how good of a recruiter future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald is, and the Cardinals have a well-built team. Fitz is still a threat as a WR even at age 35, but the rest of the receiving corps (John Brown - age 27, Jaron Brown - age 28, & JJ Nelson - age 25) are all still young. Not to mention they’ve got a potential MVP candidate in RB David Johnson back and healthy for 2018 and a defense that’s anchored by one of the best in Patrick Peterson. It’s a tough division, but a temperate climate, and all with a team that has shown interest in Cousins and should be able to sign him to the long-term deal he deserves.

Sam Bradford & Teddy Bridgewater - Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota Vikings v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

In this hypothetical, I’m giving the Minnesota Vikings a pair of QBs from which they can find a starter, and a pair they should be very familiar with in Bradford and Bridgewater. Both were on the Vikings’ roster in 2017, but both were injured and sat behind the emerging Case Keenum. Bridgewater is a former first round pick from the Vikings, and the Vikings then traded a first round pick to acquire Bradford after Bridgewater’s injury. The team has shown a willingness to invest individually in both, so I’m going to say that between the pair, the team can bring in both QBs and hope one stands out to be the starter during the preseason.

Case Keenum - Denver Broncos

NFC Championship - Minnesota Vikings v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

If John Elway and the Broncos miss out on their top choice in Kirk Cousins, they likely go with the back-up plan of targeting Case Keenum. Keenum, unlike a draft pick, has the option of signing with whomever he chooses, so the Broncos offer one of the more attractive options. It’s likely a bad fit in the long-term for Denver as Keenum is likely to be added to the list of Paxton Lynch and Brock Osweiler of poor scouting decisions from the current Broncos front office, but at least for 2018, they’ll be out of the QB market after this signing.

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So now we’re headed to the 2018 NFL Draft. Let’s identify the QBs that are available in the first round along with Baker Mayfield. According to Mel Kiper’s Big Board, there are 3 QBs ranked ahead of Mayfield that are available in the first round.

  1. Josh Allen (Wyoming), 2. Sam Darnold (USC), 3. Josh Rosen (UCLA), 4. Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma)

So for simplicity’s sake, let’s just say that Mayfield will go after the first three QBs (Allen, Darnold, and Rosen) taken in any order ahead of him. That means we are only at risk of Mayfield getting drafted (in this hypothetical) after the teams that need/want a QB have taken 3 QBs already.

So now that we have this information, let’s play out the first round of the NFL draft, all the way to the New Orleans Saints’ pick at #27 overall. A team with stars means they have drafted a QB in this mock. A team in bold means they are a threat to draft Baker Mayfield after the other three prospects have been drafted and the free agent market has played out like above.

  1. Cleveland Browns - with the first overall pick, the Browns take RB Saquon Barkley for fear of him landing with the Colts with the 3rd overall pick
  2. New York Giants** - Sam Darnold, USC
  3. Indianapolis Colts - Andrew Luck is still young, so assuming he’s healthy at any point in the near future, there’s no point in spending a pick this early on a QB
  4. Cleveland Browns** - Josh Rosen, UCLA
  5. Denver Broncos - the Broncos signed Case Keenum in this hypothetical
  6. New York Jets** - Josh Allen, Wyoming
  7. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Jameis Winston is only 24 years old
  8. Chicago Bears - Mitchell Trubisky is a first round pick from 2017
  9. San Francisco 49ers - Jimmy Garoppolo was just given an extension to be their new QB of the future
  10. Oakland Raiders - Derek Carr is only 26 years old
  11. Miami Dolphins - the team has said Ryan Tannehill is the starter in 2018, but that could just be lip-service as he’s proven to be injury-prone
  12. Cincinnati Bengals - Andy Dalton is only 30 years old and still has three years left on a team-friendly contract, but he’s left plenty to be desired
  13. Washington Redskins - they just traded for Alex Smith
  14. Green Bay Packers - Aaron freaking Rodgers is the starter for 2018, and an extension is possible for 2019 and beyond
  15. Arizona Cardinals - the Cardinals sign Kirk Cousins in this hypothetical world
  16. Baltimore Ravens - might the Ravens look for the future replacement for Joe Flacco?
  17. Los Angeles Chargers - same for the Chargers behind Philip Rivers
  18. Seattle Seahawks - Russell Wilson is still in his prime
  19. Dallas Cowboys - Dak Prescott is only 24 years old
  20. Detroit Lions - Matthew Stafford was just given an extension
  21. Buffalo Bills - here’s where things really get dicey as the Bills have back-to-back picks and a big need at QB.
  22. Buffalo Bills
  23. Los Angeles Rams - Jared Goff is a first round pick from 2017
  24. Carolina Panthers - Cam Newton is still in his prime
  25. Tennessee Titans - Marcus Mariota is only 24 years old
  26. Atlanta Falcons - Matt Ryan is still in his prime
  27. New Orleans Saints

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But let’s say for argument’s sake that Miami and Cincinnati decide to play in win-now mode and add pieces around Tannehill and Dalton. Then there’s also the Chargers and Ravens, but neither Rivers nor Flacco has shown quite the decline as Eli. Maybe both AFC teams stand pat at QB for at least another year.

That means the next legitimate threat to draft Mayfield comes from the Buffalo Bills at picks 17 & 18. While the Saints are unlikely to chase Mayfield by trading for a top 5 (or even top 10) pick, if Mayfield falls all the way to the Lions at 16, that is where the Saints make their move. The Saints could then trade something like their 2018 first (27th overall), a 2019 first round pick, and a 2019 fourth round pick all to move up 11 spots to 16th overall and leapfrog the Bills to pick Mayfield.

If somehow, in some freak universe, the Dolphins, Bengals, Chargers and Ravens all decide to roll with their current starters for 2018, and the Bills were to fill their void at QB with something like a trade for Nick Foles, then Mayfield could fall even further and land in the Saints lap at pick 27 without trading up, but that is all highly unlikely.

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So there you have it! There is a sequence of events that could lead to the Saints trading up to the 16th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and grabbing Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield to groom behind Drew Brees. What do you think? Love it? Hate it? Let me know in the comments. Send me presents.