The Cleveland Browns surprised everyone by actually doing the right thing for once, and selecting Baker Mayfield with their No. 1 overall pick at the NFL Draft. While there was a lot of speculation that the Browns would take Josh Allen, who’s pretty prototypical of the quarterback they’ve drafted over the last 10 years or so (minus Johnny Manziel), they took Mayfield.
Now that the dust has settled with the pick, it appears as if Mayfield was Cleveland’s guy all along. In a Sports Illustrated piece by Peter King, he explains that John Dorsey knew it was going to be Mayfield for over a month before the actual draft:
Dorsey and a contingent of scouts and coaches spent the week of March 19 visiting four quarterbacks—in order, Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen. They dined with Rosen on Monday, worked him out Tuesday, dined with Darnold on Tuesday, etc. Dorsey never told a soul which quarterback he preferred, though he had a very good idea on March 22 after leaving Oklahoma that he wanted Mayfield. Back in Ohio, at the top of the quarterback list on the Browns’ magnetic draft board, Dorsey turned the magnetic rectangular quarterback nametags upright. And at the top of the QB list, while every other name on the massive board was horizontally magnetized, four vertical QB nametags were at the top.
Rosen one, Darnold two, Mayfield three, Allen four. From left to right.
“Right in the order we visited them, and I kept them in that position until the day of the draft,” Dorsey told me.
Props to Dorsey for keeping this under wraps — King goes on to say that the Browns also holding the No. 4 pick created some intrigue there. Some teams asked Dorsey about trading up for it, but it didn’t get more serious than that.
But back to the Browns, who did do exactly what, well even we, didn’t expect them to do — take Mayfield, the best quarterback in this year’s draft class. As Bill Connelly wrote a couple weeks before the draft, there’s no question he was head and shoulders above the rest:
2018 QB prospects with a career success rate of 49.1 percent or higher:
-Baker Mayfield, Oklahoma (54.8 percent)
-Sam Darnold, USC (52.0 percent)
-Mason Rudolph, Oklahoma State (50.0 percent)
-Logan Woodside*, Toledo (49.5 percent)
Of the 38 players in the NFL sample, only Winston (57.1 percent) and Bradford (55.4) had higher career success rates in college than Mayfield. Winston’s first three seasons in the NFL have generated a 45.8 percent success rate; Bradford battled injury and a porous offensive line, generating a 37.2 percent success rate in his first two years before rising to 42.3 percent, near the league average (which is usually between 42.5 and 43 percent), in his next two.
And Connelly’s projected success rate for Mayfield reflects that same sentiment:
There really wasn’t much risk associated with Mayfield, either, when looking at the other guys:
-Josh Allen was a tall mediocrity.
-Sam Darnold coughed up gobs and gobs of turnovers.
-Lamar Jackson had a slight physique and got hit (and sacked) a lot.
-Josh Rosen got crushed a lot and never had a chance to shine because of iffy line play and a bad running game, not that he can’t become a great NFL QB himself.
The knock on Mayfield is he’s ... a little short, I guess? He’s 6’1, which is on the smaller side for a quarterback
Yes, some compared him to Manziel, but that’s not fair to Mayfield for a few reasons, the biggest being that his off-field wrongs don’t nearly come close to the severity of Manziel’s.
It’s obviously interesting that Dorsey was able to keep this thing under wraps, despite ESPN’s Adam Schefter reporting last Tuesday that Mayfield was “definitely” in the conversation at No. 1. But also, to Dorsey’s credit, If I were the Browns and I was going to do the right thing for once, I’d keep it quiet too, to be completely honest.