In a matter of days, Baker Mayfield will become the next Oklahoma Sooners quarterback to have his name called at the NFL Draft. Navigating an unlikely, yet spectacular journey from walk-on to Heisman Trophy winner, Mayfield has come to be one of the most talked-about, polarizing quarterback prospects in recent memory. Following an outstanding career at OU, Mayfield’s next stop will be an NFL city, where he’ll have all the tools to make a lasting impact, just as he’s done everywhere else he’s played.
By now, it’s become stuff of college football legend. Hailing from the Austin area, the former all-state gunslinger led his Lake Travis High School team to the 4A State Championship in 2011. Overlooked by many programs due to size concerns, Mayfield failed to land any high-profile offers and chose to walk on at Texas Tech in 2013. After becoming the first true freshman walk-on to ever start at quarterback in an FBS opener, Mayfield continued to impress before an injury eventually cost him his starting job to Davis Webb. What ensued was a bit of a conflict (to put it lightly) between Mayfield and Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury over his role on the team and scholarship situation, which resulted in Mayfield leaving the team.
Packing up his 2,315 yards and 12 touchdowns, Mayfield left Lubbock and headed north to Norman, Oklahoma, where he would enroll at his dreams school without notifying the coaches. After joining as a walk-on and sitting out for a year, he beat out Sugar Bowl MVP quarterback Trevor Knight and again won a starting job in 2015. He would go on to lead the Sooners to the first of two College Football Playoff berths in his storied Oklahoma career. Two seasons later as a senior in 2017, he won the Heisman Trophy and led the school to yet another playoff berth. He’s also made a few other headlines along the way. In February of 2017, he was tackled and arrested by Fayetteville police after attempting to run away from them. There was also the flag-planting in Columbus and the crotch-grabbing in Lawrence, both of which made him the most talked-about athlete in the country for extended periods of time.
You know, just your standard college quarterback story.
Baker Mayfield concluded his collegiate career as one of the most accomplished and decorated players in history. Along with taking home the 2017 Heisman Trophy, Mayfield also won the Maxwell and Davey O’Brien Awards as a senior. He also finished in the top four in Heisman voting in his three seasons as the Oklahoma starter.
Under Mayfield and head coach Lincoln Riley’s leadership, the Sooners once again became one of the premier sights to see in the country and boasted perhaps the most prolific offense in modern college football history through the last three seasons. Eclipsing some of the passing records of 2008 Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford, Mayfield’s Sooners won three straight Big 12 Championship titles and played in the 2015 and 2017 College Football Playoff.
The reigning Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year finished his Heisman season with 43 passing touchdowns to just six interceptions and also added 311 yards and five scores on the ground. Baker the Touchdown Maker led the nation in pass efficiency for the second straight season — setting the NCAA record both times — and boasted a nation-leading 11.8 yards per pass attempt and 70.5 completion percentage.
Amassing 14,607 passing yards, 131 touchdowns and just 30 picks through 46 starts in his decorated collegiate career, Baker Mayfield will go down as one of the sport’s most complete and prolific passers of all time. Couple that with an impressive record and presence in big games, Mayfield has also rightfully earned a place among college football’s best players ever.
Lost in everything tonight: Baker Mayfield will finish his OU career a perfect 14-0 in true road contests. 7 (!!) of those wins came against ranked opponents.— Spenser Davis (@Davis_Spenser) November 19, 2017
That's incredible. #Sooners
NFL Combine Results
After participating in the Senior Bowl in January, Mayfield showed up to the 2018 NFL Combine the following month to throw, work out, interview and test. Measuring out at 6-1, 215 pounds, Mayfield actually stands taller than his closest pro player comparison, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. While his critics will still point at his height as the main, on-field detraction from Mayfield’s game, Wilson’s success has certainly provided a template for how to turn those criticisms into strengths, something Baker has also been able to do at every level of his football career so far.
Mayfield’s NFL Combine results:
40-yard dash: 4.84 seconds
Vertical jump: 29.0 inches
Broad jump: 111.0 inches
3-Cone drill: 7.0 seconds
20-yard shuttle: 4.28 seconds
OU Pro Day
Having a chance to throw to his own wide receivers and tight ends, including fellow 2018 NFL Draft prospects Mark Andrews and Jeff Badet, Mayfield also wowed scouts and spectators alike at OU’s Pro Day in March. Here’s some on-field highlights and Baker talking about his performance, courtesy The Oklahoman:
Coming into draft week, Baker Mayfield seems to be firmly entrenched in top-10 pick territory. While his projections may include more than a handful of interested teams scattered throughout the first round, including the New York Jets, Denver Broncos, Cleveland Browns, Miami Dolphins and Buffalo Bills all aiming to address quarterback needs, there appears to be a consensus building around the NFL that he won’t last past the top five.
With that, here is more from the experts.
Lance Zierlein, NFL Analyst - Round 1 projection, NFL Comparison: Doug Flutie
“Spread quarterbacks have had limited success as have small quarterbacks. Mayfield falls into both categories and has to prove he can transcend those perceived deficiencies on the next level. Having complete command of the Oklahoma offense isn’t an automatic precursor for NFL success, but Mayfield’s ability to process, extend plays and throw with accuracy give him a good shot. He’ll be somewhat scheme-dependent so whoever takes him will need to be willing to build their offense around his strengths.” - Lance Zierlein
Scotty Payne, Mile High Report - Round 1, No. 5 overall, Denver Broncos
“The Broncos have shown great interest in Baker Mayfield from the get-go. They requested to coach him at the Senior Bowl, spent the first day off free agency at his Pro Day and they will also have a pre-draft visit/workout with him. The interest is obvious. Former head coach and now front office member Gary Kubiak will be a big reason why Mayfield ends up in Denver. Mayfield would serve as the perfect backup for Case Keenum in the short-term, but it shouldn’t take long for him to pass him on the depth chart. The debate here will be between Mayfield and Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen. Mayfield is the better player, and the smarter choice. Will Elway agree? That’s what this pick is going to come down to.” - Scotty Payne
Charlie Campbell, WalterFootball.com - Round 1, No. 3 overall, New York Jets
”I thought that Josh Allen was their preferred guy after speaking with Jets staff at the all-star games. With Allen off the board, I’ve heard the Jets have the quarterbacks rated Sam Darold and then Baker Mayfield. The team would be happy with either one. I think Mayfield’s love of football and drive to be great is giving him an edge over Josh Rosen.” - Charlie Campbell
Omar Kelly, NFL beat writer:
And I've been making my calls, and it's unanimous.....the New York Jets will likely be drafting Baker Mayfield, and anyone who wants him (Buffalo and Miami) better trade with the Giants to get pick No. 2....But it's not worth it.— Omar Kelly (@OmarKelly) April 20, 2018
Steve Palazzolo, ProFootballFocus.com - Round 1, No. 1 overall, Cleveland Browns
”The nation’s highest-graded quarterback for two straight years, Mayfield’s production has been at another level than his peers.” - Steve Palazzolo
Curtis Conway, NFL Network - Round 1, No. 11 overall, Miami Dolphins
Along with the Jets, Broncos, Dolphins, Bills and Browns, the Arizona Cardinals and a few teams sitting in the bottom half of the first round also have keen interest in the Oklahoma product. Though the Cards signed Sam Bradford and Mike Glennon this offseason, they apparently “love” Mayfield. The New England Patriots and New Orleans Saints have also been tabbed as ideal landing spots for Mayfield should he drop in the draft and the right trade came available.
Aside from the oft-heard (and somewhat appropriate) Russell Wilson comparisons floating amidst a few Doug Fluties and Johnny Manziels (nope), Mayfield’s ceiling may actually be as high as that of Drew Brees — albeit it’s nearly as high a ceiling as it gets. His floor may be that of a Case Keenum or Jeff Garcia. His work ethic is second to none, as is his ability to learn and adapt to football situations given his high IQ for the game and his position.
An elusive, adept scrambler, Mayfield’s NFL ceiling is also made higher by the shifting landscape of pro football, which has come to include many concepts related to the college game’s spread and run-pass-option schemes. If he ends up in the right system and around the right coaching and personnel, the Baker Mayfield story could grow to reach the highest heights. The fact that he was coached up by the best young offensive mind in college football probably shouldn’t be ignored, either.