Mayfield Waging Perception War At Senior Bowl
MOBILE, Alabama - The quarterback class for the 2018 NFL Draft is the 1927 Yankees for hot-take artists and anonymous scouts. Josh Allen, Josh Rosen, Lamar Jackson and Baker Mayfield? How glorious. Mayfield will get more takes than anyone thanks to a combination of his Heisman Trophy, his brazen attitude, his off-field issues, his size, his skillset and the system he played in at Oklahoma. It's a perfect storm, really.
Mayfield, because of things that happened to him on and off the field during his career, has drawn plenty of criticism, even as he was accepting gigantic metal trophies for his on-field success. He has even been compared to Johnny Manziel, the former Texas A&M standout who won the Heisman Trophy in 2012 and famously flamed out with the Browns.
The Oklahoma star does not appreciate the comparisons and invoked Manziel's name himself during a media session at the Senior Bowl, per Nicki Jhabvala of the Denver Post.
"Everybody wants to portray the bad boy, the Johnny Manziel stuff, but I love the game of football," Mayfield said. "There's no doubt about that. I'm an emotional player. I do anything it takes to win. I love being around my teammates and I love leading and having responsibility.
"I came down here to play the game and show them that I love playing."
Mayfield reiterated the theme of him "loving the game" in an interview with NFLNetwork on Wednesday afternoon from the sideline at the Senior Bowl. Asked by Mike Mayock what his best traits were, Mayfield pointed to "leadership" first
"I think leadership wise and accuracy wise those are the best things I do," Mayfield said. "Just learning the system, getting to where I'm comfortable back there where I can just be myself. That just comes with reps."
The Heisman winner also addressed rumors about his love of the game.
"Love the game. There's just something about it. It's what I live for," Mayfield said.
As for what he's been asked by NFL teams so far at the meetings, Mayfield said there are concerns about how he feels about football and if he's "a bad kid," but he believes he's put those concerns to rest.
"It was a question of if I really love the game or not and if I'm a bad kid, but I've been able to address that, show I've made mistakes and I've learned and moved forward," Mayfield said. "And exactly what I care about is the game: I love it, I'll do anything to win and I'll do anything for whatever team drafts me."
There will still be critics, because Mayfield is an electric personality who happens to be a lightning rod for criticism and controversy. He showed up late to the Senior Bowl because of what was reported to be a family concern. A Cleveland draft writer, verified on Twitter, ripped Mayfield for showing up late to the Senior Bowl for what he put in quotes as "family matters." Mayfield fired back in his direction.
Showing up late? What would you do if your mom had gone to the hospital? Get outta here. Family before myself always.— Baker Mayfield (@baker_mayfield6) January 23, 2018
The writer promptly apologized and deleted the tweets, but the point about Mayfield still remains: there will be people looking to take shots at him in what is always a hotly-debated process leading up to the draft.
There are real red flags when it comes to Mayfield's approach to this process. The NFL doesn't like people who try to operate outside of the lines when it comes to the pre-draft process.
As far as the on-the-field action goes, Mayfield certainly put on a better accuracy show than Wyoming's Josh Allen, one of his competitors for a first-round slot.
The general consensus when it comes to those two is that Allen has the stronger arm -- and you can see it. His upside is through the roof and his arm talent is unmatched. Mayfield is more polished and more accurate on short-yardage stuff. If you were forced to play one of them in 2017 it would have to be Mayfield (I think, right now, all opinions subject to change, trademark draft season).
In case you are also still confused about how you should feel about Baker Mayfield: he is immensely talented, will draw plenty of hot takes over the next few weeks and months, will generate tons of headlines, may or may not be willing to just get in line and be a cookie-cutter prospect and no one will definitely be able to decide if he can be a great quarterback at the NFL level by the time the draft rolls around.
Like I said, it's a perfect draft-season storm.