Baker Mayfield

Browns Select Baker Mayfield No. 1 Overall

The Browns have a new franchise quarterback, as Cleveland has selected Oklahoma signal-caller Baker Mayfield with the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft.

At various points in the pre-draft process, the Browns had reportedly been eyeing other quarterbacks, such as USC’s Sam Darnold and Wyoming’s Josh Allen. Instead, they’ve gone with a former Heisman Trophy winner in Mayfield in an effort to solidify their quarterback position for years to come.

Cleveland, of course, has been trying and failing to land a long-term passer for some time, and notably passed on prospects such as Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson in recent drafts. With a new general manager in place, and the first and fourth overall picks at their disposal, the Browns always seemed likely to use a top selection on a quarterback.

Mayfield, a former walk-on at both Texas Tech and Oklahoma, is a favorite of many in the analytic community, and posted at 3,700 yards and 35 touchdowns in each of his three campaigns for the Sooners. An excellent passer from the pocket, Mayfield stands at just over six feet tall.

The Browns acquired Tyrod Taylor from the Bills earlier this offseason, and also signed veteran backup Drew Stanton, so Mayfield isn’t expected to begin the 2018 season as the club’s starter. Cleveland has pledged to bring its next quarterback along slowly, but Mayfield could conceivably see the field as the year progresses.

As the first overall pick, Mayfield will sign a four-year, fully guaranteed contract that comes with a fifth-year option for the 2022 seasons. Mayfield’s deal should be worth nearly $33MM, per Over the Cap, including a $22MM signing bonus and a 2018 cap charge of roughly $5.9MM.

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Poll: Who Will Browns Take At No. 1 Overall?

In one of the wilder lead-ups to a draft in many years, the Browns have been connected to several players with their No. 1 overall pick. The quarterback-desperate franchise is almost certain to announce its expected Tyrod Taylor successor tonight, but the buildup to that moment has been a process featuring many twists and turns.

Having bypassed Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson the past two years, the Browns have now been linked to three quarterbacks at No. 1. The latest could be one of the most unique first-overall picks in memory.

The Browns are now strongly connected to Baker Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy winner and a player who did not appear in the top half of the first round of Todd McShay’s first offseason mock draft. But John Dorsey brought on former Redskins GM Scot McCloughan as a consultant before the draft, and the longtime scouting guru has been an outspoken proponent of the polarizing Oklahoma-developed quarterback. The news the Browns will take Mayfield at No. 1 emerged this week, and that rumor is rapidly gaining steam.

However, the Browns’ previous debate was believed to be a two-horse race between Sam Darnold and Josh Allen. Dorsey has a history of selecting big-armed passers or being affiliated with organizations which have done so, most recently pulling the trigger on Patrick Mahomes in his final draft as Chiefs GM. Viewed as a high-ceiling, low-floor prospect, Allen would represent that kind of bold choice. A report earlier this week indicated Cleveland was down to the Wyoming prodigy or the fast-rising Mayfield.

Darnold has gone from a player viewed as arguably the best combination of production and upside to one that may fall out of the top two and be there for the Jets at No. 3. The Jets scheduled a Darnold visit once they began to sense the USC product falling to them was a legitimate possibility.

The Browns have also been linked to Saquon Barkley at No. 1. While Barkley is viewed as the top running back and possibly the No. 1 overall player in this prospect pool, it’s hard to believe the Browns would again bypass their chance at landing a possible franchise quarterback.

They have not been closely tied to Josh Rosen during this pre-draft stretch, and the latest on a trade-down occurrence is that line of thinking could transpire with the Browns’ No. 4 pick rather than their No. 1 choice.

So, which passer will be bound for northeast Ohio? Is the Mayfield surge legitimate or a massive smokescreen operation? Does Allen’s upside, the unearthing of several tweets from his high school days notwithstanding, warrant this kind of an investment? Or should the Browns take the player they’ve been most connected to in Darnold with the top pick? How about a trade-down scenario? Vote in PFR’s latest poll and weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

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Draft Rumors: Allen, Cardinals, Broncos

Josh Allen‘s camp has been doing damage control on Thursday morning, and it seems to be working thus far. Allen and his representatives have been on the phone with possible destination teams today, and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (video link) these old tweets being unearthed is not believed to be an occurrence that will cause his stock to tumble. Allen has told teams these tweets were either references to a Rick Ross song or to movies and TV shows, with Rapoport adding some were tweets to friends. Teams are hesitant to judge the Wyoming- and central California-developed quarterback based on tweets from high school, per Rapoport (on Twitter).

Here’s the latest from the draft:

  • Maybe a team representing Allen’s floor, the Cardinals are considering moving up for the right price, Mike Jurecki of ArizonaSports.com tweets. This is the latest out of Arizona, which has been linked to trade-up rumors this week. The Cardinals are in need of a long-term quarterback answer, and it’s possible none of the top four will be there when their No. 15 window opens.
  • The Browns taking Baker Mayfield at No. 1 would be a surprise and could change the Broncos‘ draft outlook. Of the big four, Mayfield and Sam Darnold are the only ones the Broncos take if they’re still on the board at No. 5, Troy Renck of Denver7 tweets. If Mayfield does go to the Browns, Darnold would be a consideration for the Giants — if they stick at No. 2 — and the Jets’ interest in the USC passer hasn’t been much of a secret. And it’s possible the Bills could move up to the No. 4 spot as well, so the Broncos could be set to go with a non-QB at No. 5 or trade back with a quarterback-seeking team.
  • While this offseason produced little to indicate the Browns would go with Mayfield, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein tweets we are hours away from that scenario unfolding. Zierlein tweets Mayfield-to-Cleveland “is happening.” He adds the Giants don’t love any of these quarterbacks, perhaps explaining the massive Saquon Barkley-to-New York buzz. Big Blue has now been connected to a trade-down scenario when it did not look like that would be the case for weeks now.
  • Derrius Guice indicated a team asked inappropriate questions to him at the Combine, but on Thursday, an investigation concluded that no proof of this emerged, per Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). The questions ranged from if the running back prospect liked men or whether or not his mother was a prostitute. “The investigation did not confirm that any club made the reported inquiries,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said. The LSU product is considered a late-first-round prospect.

Browns To Select Baker Mayfield No. 1?

With hours to go before the NFL Draft, the identity of the No. 1 pick remains unclear. There is increasing chatter from head coaches and GMs that the Browns will select Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com tweets. This comes after weeks of reports identifying USC’s Sam Darnold and Wyoming’s Josh Allen as the only real candidates for the selection. 

Mayfield won the Heisman Trophy in 2017 and led the Football Bowl Subdivision in completion rate by connecting on 70.5% of his throws. He also set a single-season record by averaging 11.5 yards per pass and threw for 43 touchdowns against six interceptions. Still, questions persist about his build and character. For his part, Browns GM John Dorsey has shrugged off questions about Mayfield’s height and his behavioral red flags.

Mayfield going No. 1 would be a surprise, but there is no real consensus on any of this year’s top quarterbacks. Darnold and Josh Rosen were long touted as the best QBs in this year’s crop, but both players are coming off of rocky seasons that potentially exposed their flaws. Allen, meanwhile, doesn’t have a great on-field track record to match the hype of his arm strength.

So far, Dorsey has kept the identity of the draft pick close to the vest. It’s possible that we won’t know the identity of the No. 1 overall pick until it is read by Roger Goodell on Thursday night, and that will make for some serious drama.

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Browns To Take Allen Or Mayfield?

For weeks, we have been hearing that the Browns will select either USC quarterback Sam Darnold or Wyoming QB Josh Allen with the top pick. Then, this week, it was reported that Oklahoma signal caller Baker Mayfield is also in the mix. Now, sources say the Browns appear to be down to either Allen or Mayfield as team executives have cooled on Darnold, Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com writes.

Much has been made about Mayfield’s lack of height, but GM John Dorsey has made it clear that he is not concerned. Dorsey has also indicated that he would not rule out Mayfield over his red flags, which include a public intoxication arrest, grabbing his crotch against Kansas, and planting a flag on the Block O at Ohio State.

Every young man will make a mistake in his life, I bet you,” he said. “And I think he’s very remorseful of that mistake and I think he’s moved forward from that, and he’s trying to make himself a better person, going through the process.”

Allen, meanwhile, has been praised for his arm strength, but his low completion rate in college underscores his lack of accuracy. If the Browns believe that they can harness his raw skills, then he could be a real consideration for the top choice. However, some would argue that he has the most bust potential of this year’s top four quarterback prospects.

Have the Browns truly drifted away from Darnold? At this point, it is impossible to tell whether the Browns are actually deciding between Mayfield and Allen or if they are simply working to try and drum up a better trade offer. Still, it’s a situation worth monitoring as whispers about Darnold’s lack of polish continue to circulate.

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Browns Considering Baker Mayfield?

For weeks, we’ve heard that the Browns will select either USC’s Sam Darnold or Wyoming’s Josh Allen with the No. 1 overall pick. Reportedly, it’s more than a two-horse race. Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield is “definitely” in Cleveland’s conversation to become the top choice, an NFL executive tells Adam Schefter of ESPN.com (on Twitter). 

It’s a little hard to parse out what news is real this time of year. But, taken at face value, it sounds like there could be a split of opinions within the Cleveland front office. None of this year’s quarterback prospects are considered to be slam dunks, so it’s possible that the Browns are wavering on which signal caller to take.

It’s also possible that the Browns are working to give the impression that they could take Mayfield or even one of this year’s non-QBs at No. 1 overall. If the Browns can give at least one team the impression they are going to select Mayfield, it could open the door to a trade-down scenario for Cleveland. The Jets, for example, are said to be high on Mayfield, and it is conceivable that they could make another move up in this year’s draft order to land him. The Bills, armed with the Nos. 12 and 22 picks in the first round, are also in the market for a QB but are likely out of range for this year’s top four signal callers.

Publicly, GM John Dorsey has indicated that he is not concerned about Mayfield’s lack of size, which has been the main knock on him from evaluators.

The only thing I care about is, do guys win?” Dorsey said. “Does he have accuracy? Does he have a strong arm? Can he throw the ball in the red zone in tight windows? Can he drive the ball? At the end of the game, does he win? That’s what I look for.”

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Jets Engaged In Mayfield-Rosen Debate?

Less than a week remains until the rampant Jets quarterback rumor cycle will slow down, after the Kirk Cousins pursuit and the months-long prospect evaluations have kept the Big Apple’s AFC team at the center of many offseason news cycles.

But the identity of Gang Green’s hopeful franchise quarterback remains unknown, and the latest coming out of Jets headquarters centers on two players — with a catch.

New York would likely be quick to take Sam Darnold if the USC-developed passer remained on the board at No. 3. Though they didn’t work him out, the Jets finalized a Darnold visit because of the signs the Browns may pass on him at No. 1, Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv reports. But if he goes to either the Browns or Giants, the Jets look to be engaged in an interesting debate.

Although the Jets were the only team to trek to Laramie, Wyo., to work out Josh Allen, the latest noise related to their No. 3 overall pick centers on a Baker Mayfield-or-Josh Rosen decision. Brian Costello of the New York Post describes a “hearty debate” among Jets brass about the merits of the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner or the brash UCLA product who may be the most pro-ready passer in this draft. Both Schwartz and Vacchiano expect Darnold to be the pick if he’s still there at 3, but if he’s gone, these contingency talks could decide the Jets’ future.

Mike Maccagnan was reportedly a Mayfield skeptic earlier the pre-draft process, with Rosen having the early advantage in this head-to-head comparison, but Vacchiano notes the fourth-year GM looks to have warmed up to him. The Jets’ concerns about how Mayfield would handle the New York market look to have diminished as well. All four of the top QB prospects visited the Jets, but they did the most work on Allen.

As we heard earlier this month, the Jets have concerns about Allen’s readiness — mostly based on his accuracy at Wyoming — and may not be especially interested in the 6-foot-5 prodigy. However, a Jets faction “loves” Allen’s skill set. Allen falling past the Browns would create an interesting scenario, because the Giants appear to be zeroing in on Darnold or Saquon Barkley at No. 2. His being there at No. 4 could make the Browns’ second first-round pick valuable for QB-seeking teams, because John Elway — whose Broncos hold the No. 5 selection — has a history of preferring this type of quarterback.

The Jets did not call the Giants about moving to No. 2 instead of No. 3, but Vacchiano reports the NFC’s Big Apple team would have listened to an offer. With the Jets having surrendered three second-round picks to move up to the Colts’ slot, though, Vacchiano notes there is a feeling in the building that the team has already made its big move and is set to stay at No. 3 and pick its favorite quarterback remaining.

Latest On Giants’ No. 2 Pick

As Round 1 looms in six days, Saquon Barkley has surged to the center of the Giants’ radar screen. While that interest is real, per Ralph Vacchiano of SNY.tv, this shouldn’t be viewed as a surefire pick.

There are some at Giants headquarters who think passing on a possible franchise quarterback “would be nuts,” per Vacchiano, who adds Sam Darnold likely remains the quarterback Big Blue would target (if he’s available). The Giants do not appear to be interested in Baker Mayfield or Josh Allen, and Vacchiano adds the team doesn’t seem to be as sure about this quarterback class as the one 14 years ago that produced their current starter.

Josh Rosen‘s stock may have taken a slight hit compared to where he was at the end of his final UCLA season, but one source informed Vacchiano he should not be ruled out of a New York selection. He was believed by some to be the favorite here early in the pre-draft process. A report earlier this month indicated the Giants were down on Rosen, but we are in peak smokescreen time.

Barkley is likely the No. 1 player on the Giants’ board, Vacchiano notes, adding that the team appears to prefer him to Bradley Chubb and may just view the Penn State sensation as an too much of a talent to pass up, regardless of positional value. ESPN’s Todd McShay has heard immense Barkley praise coming out of New York lately, and PFR readers’ early consensus is Barkley will be Big Apple-bound.

While the Giants are high on Chubb and Quenton Nelson, Vacchiano writes these two are likelier fits if they trade down, pointing to the Notre Dame guard in particular in a trade-down scenario. Paul Schwartz of the New York Post reported Nelson was a top-three player on New York’s board and a target if the team trades down. If the Giants were to move down and target Chubb, they probably wouldn’t be able to drop too far. Any trade-down move, though, may be less likely than the franchise just picking its preferred prospect.

Why would we (trade down) and pass on either the best quarterback or best player on our board?” one Giants source told Vacchiano.

This is the highest pick the Giants have held since 1981, when they landed Lawrence Taylor, and Dave Gettleman has repeatedly said he would like a “gold jacket” player with his first pick as GM.

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Broncos Rumors: Elway, No. 5 Pick, Ray

The Broncos are open for business. In a presser on Thursday, GM John Elway announced that he is willing to trade the No. 5 overall pick for the right price. Elway also noted that Denver is open to all possibilities, which may mean standing pat to take a quarterback, moving back for the QB they want, or even selecting a non-QB.

The Bills, armed with the Nos. 12 and 22 selections in the draft, are expected to be among those with serious interest in moving up to the No. 5 pick.

Here’s more out of Denver:

  • Elway says the team hasn’t made a decision yet on picking up Shane Ray‘s fifth-year option (Twitter link via Nicki Jhabvala of The Athletic). Ray had a breakout season in 2016, recording 48 tackles and eight sacks in 664 snaps and placing 45th out of Pro Football Focus’ 110 qualified edge defenders. Unfortunately, Ray’s wrist kept him off the field until late October last year and he was shut down once again in December. As shown on PFR’s 2019 Fifth-Year Option Tracker, seven players have had their options exercised. The Broncos will have to think long and hard about whether to do the same for the former No. 23 overall pick.
  • Elway says the Broncos do not have more than four quarterbacks with first round grades (Twitter link via James Palmer of NFL.com), though he added that there is not a consensus in the building on ranking them.
  • Elway says that the production of Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield over ” the last three years” is proof that his height – just over 6’0″ — should not be an issue in the NFL (Twitter link via Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com).

West Notes: Broncos, Cards, Mayfield, Bolts

Multiple clubs have already reached out to free agent running back C.J. Anderson, whom the Broncos released on Monday, according to Mike Klis of 9News (Twitter link). Anderson, 27, appeared in all 16 games for the first time in his career in 2017, rushing for 1,007 yards and three scores. However, Anderson has managed only four yards per carry over the past two seasons, and — as Warren Sharp of SharpFootballStats.com detailed in an excellent Twitter thread — struggled with early-down work a year ago. Speculatively, teams that could be eyeing a running back addition include the Dolphins (who have expressed recent interest in Anderson in the past), Patriots, Texans, Giants, Redskins, Lions, Panthers, and Seahawks.

Here’s more from the NFL’s two West divisions:

  • The Cardinals hosted Oklahoma quarterback prospect Baker Mayfield on Wednesday, per Robert Klemko of Sports Illustrated (Twitter link). Mayfield is widely expected to be a top-10 selection, and has been heavily linked to the Jets at No. 3, so Arizona — which currently holds the 15th overall pick — likely won’t have a shot at the ex-Sooner unless it trades up. But the Cardinals certainly need an infusion of talent under center, as neither Sam Bradford nor Mike Glennon are long-term options in the desert. Bradford inked a one-year, $20MM deal with Arizona earlier this year, while Glennon signed a two-year pact. Mayfield, if selected by the Cardinals, likely wouldn’t play immediately given the presence of Bradford, but he would set the club up for years to come.
  • Punter Riley Dixon did not report to Broncos‘ workouts on Monday and has been advised by his agent to stay away until Denver informs him of his status with the club, tweets Klis. The Broncos signed former Raiders punter Marquette King to a three-year deal earlier this month, so they’re clearly not going to keep Dixon around in 2018. Denver had been expected to shop Dixon, but it’s unclear if any other team is willing to sacrifice anything of note for a specialist with a spotty track record. Dixon, 24, has been the Broncos’ punter in each of the past two seasons after entering the league as a seventh-round pick in 2016. In 2017, Dixon ranked 22nd in net punting average, while Denver as a whole finished 26th in Football Outsiders‘ punt points metric.
  • Not only is Chargers defensive tackle Corey Liuget suspended for the first quarter of the 2018 campaign, but he’s also accepted to a hefty pay reduction. Liuget’s base salary has been cut from $8.05MM to just $935K, as Field Yates of ESPN.com tweets. The former first-round pick will still earn $2.585MM in bonuses and can collect more cash via incentives, but his 2018 cap charge has been slashed from $9.5MM to $5.02MM. Liuget, 28, appeared in 12 games in 2017, posting 15 tackles and 1.5 sacks while grading as the NFL’s No. 32 interior defender, per Pro Football Focus