Don’t be fooled — Baker Mayfield is a legit NFL QB prospect

Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) looks downfield for an open receiver during the game between the Baylor Bears and the Oklahoma Sooners at McLane Stadium in Waco, TX, (Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire)
Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire

The summer quarterback hype train consistently revolved around three names: Sam Darnold of USC, Josh Rosen of UCLA, and Josh Allen in Wyoming. Darnold shined the light of hope as the next great “clutch” passer. Rosen was the overwhelmingly talented but outspoken face of the class. Allen was the freakish limitless-ceiling player from an out-of-the-way location.

There were no “Meet the Future No. 1 Pick” pieces written about Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. Little was mentioned of his absurd 40 passing touchdowns to eight interceptions or that he was at the Heisman ceremony as a finalist last year, unlike any of the previous three.

Sure, none of that has to do with the transition from the college to the pro game, a jump that has been ruthless for so many. Yet here we are in 2017. Baker Mayfield is doing what he always has: thriving from the quarterback position. However, he doesn’t have Joe Mixon or Samaje Perine in the backfield.

Why is he consistently overlooked when this highly praised quarterback class is mentioned? No pun intended, but it all starts with his height. The senior signal caller is listed as 6-1 with a stocky 220-pound frame. The latter is visible on tape, but the former? Not so much.

In a league where the sub-6-feet-tall Russell Wilson thrives and the legendary, 6-feet-tall Drew Brees is finishing up a brilliant career, the star “short” quarterback is the outlier, not the norm. If Mayfield measures below that mark, it will be a knock brought up over and over again.

When evaluating flaws, especially physical ones, it’s vital to not mark it down and move on, but ask how it affects the player’s game. Mayfield often makes up for it with a great feel for the pocket and mobility to create plays:

For all of the love and praise that Sam Darnold gets as an NFL prospect, Mayfield’s arm is just as good if not better. He’s just as mobile and has been the leader of his team for multiple seasons. The difference is Darnold is younger (Mayfield turns 23 two weeks before the draft) and will grade higher on the character and intangibles scale, while possessing more long-term upside due to his size and age. There’s nothing wrong with accepting that, but it shouldn’t negate that Mayfield is more than deserving of being selected in the first two rounds of next year’s draft as a legitimate quarterback prospect.

One event where he will be able to improve his stock (and the highly touted underclassmen can’t — not yet) is at the Senior Bowl, where he should fully capitalize on being eligible to attend. Working with an NFL coaching staff is an invaluable opportunity. Coming out of Oklahoma’s offense in the Big-12 will raise plenty of questions on how “pro ready” he is. It did wonders for Carson Wentz two years ago, and if not for a DUI after, it could have had a similar affect on Dak Prescott.

A supply-and-demand problem is rapidly approaching the NFL. The New York Jets, New York Giants, San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Chargers, New Orleans Saints, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns might all try to add their franchise quarterback of the future. There’s only one Sam Darnold and one Josh Rosen, leaving those that miss scrambling for other options.

Many of these same teams overthought Deshaun Watson for many of the nitpicking reasons they will look past Mayfield. Neither will never be the most physically imposing quarterback at any level. Both have faced questions about their pro transition due to the offense they play. For whatever absurd reasons, both their unconventional style of play gets viewed as a “concern” rather than an answer (each are great when they leave the pocket and possess the necessary mobility to escape and extend).

Baker Mayfield is a “backup option” who could pay dividends for an NFL franchise, even more than the higher praised options such as Mason Rudolph and Luke Falk. For a mid- or late second-round selection, why not roll the dice? Outliers only come around every once in awhile, especially at the quarterback position. Baker Mayfield is next.

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