DraftFix: Baker Mayfield continues to pass every test

The Jets won this week, so there's no "It could be worse". Instead, we're going to reward ourselves with a look at something related to next April's draft.

Flavor of the month at the moment is 2018 Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield. (Okay, so they haven't announced it yet, but...come on). He's causing fans, draft analysts and probably NFL teams to reconsider his NFL potential after a string of spectacular performances.

Widely accepted as one of the best players in college football, Mayfield hadn't been considered an elite NFL prospect for a number of reasons, but he's playing at such a high level that people are starting to wonder if perhaps he could overcome any perceived shortfalls to enjoy some professional success.

Yes, he's short. No, he doesn't have a huge arm. Sure, he doesn't play in a "pro-style" offense. And then there's the character concerns.

However, there are certain things that Mayfield does so well, it wouldn't be surprising to see a team in the top half of the first round talking themselves into his ability to mitigate all of the above issues.

A strong performance by Mayfield in the college football playoffs will go a long way towards boosting his NFL stock, but for now, the best we have in terms of evidence for Mayfield's ability to produce against NFL-level talent is his performance against Ohio State earlier in the year.

Overall, Mayfield played great, sparking OU's upset win with a 386-yard and three touchdown performance. Within that game, there were plenty of standard throws, on which he was efficient and effective. However, let's focus on some plays where he showed specific signs of things he either does better or worse than some of the other prospects in the draft.

The following plays are in chronological order:

One of the oft-stated concerns about Mayfield is that he plays in a simplistic offense. However, Oklahoma has been working in more pro-style concepts this year. In any case, many NFL teams, including the Jets, run plenty of plays with route combinations grounded in so-called "college spread offenses".

Mayfield shows an ability here to scan the field and go through his progressions before a viable option opens up over the middle:


Another criticism of him is that, while he possesses the ability to extend plays, he can get happy feet and scramble around when he should just get rid of the ball or take the easy option.

However, on this play, while it looks initially like he's going to panic, he shows composure and while it looks like he's done well just to throw the ball away, he almost manages to complete the pass:


Somethin Mayfield has done better and better as the season has gone along has been his timing and ball placement. There's evidence of this here on a perfectly timed throw that hits the runner in stride for 21 yards. Note how he's into his throwing motion before the receiver even looks back for the ball. That's a 10-12 yard gain if he throws it a half-beat later or if it's six inches off-line:


He has had a habit of taking too many sacks though, although that's again an area he seems to have been focusing on improving at as the season has gone along. On this occasion, he tries to extend the play when he had options both early and late in the play to dump it off to open receivers on the left side:


As noted his ball placement has typically been impressive this year. Here's a rare example of him misfiring on an easy pass to an open man. Although this is a drop, it's slightly behind the receiver. However, this is more notable for the fact that it doesn't happen often, especially not on short passes:


Another drawback for Mayfield is his lack of size. He's listed at 6'2" but if he measures closer to 6'0" at the combine, as some suspect will be the case, that could hurt his stock. NFL teams don't usually pick shorter quarterbacks high in the draft, but Russell Wilson's recent success might give teams second thoughts.

A better comparison might be Drew Brees because rather than running away from pressure, Mayfield might be more adept at emulating Brees' ability to move around within the pocket, as he did on several plays in this game including the first of the above gifs.

Due to a lack of height, there will be concern that he'll have passes batted down at the line and that happened twice in this game:


However, not only were both of these more of an anticipation issue than a product of him not being a few inches taller, they were also the only two passes he's had batted down at the line all year.

On this play, Mayfield shows his ability to escape the rush and again shows composure to find the open man. Plays like this are a bit of a poisoned challis because they invite the dreaded Johnny Manziel comparisons, but he does have an innate feel within the pocket which is impressive:


The lack of an elite arm will turn off those teams who will be looking for a quarterback that displays elite tools. He should have had a deep touchdown here but the underthrown ball (although it actually worked out because it led to a pass interference call) is disappointing:


Nevertheless, Mayfield does plenty of things those raw trait-based prospects - and even many established NFL starters don't. His first two touchdowns came on a dump-off pass that his tight end took the distance and a blown coverage, but his third one was especially impressive.

On the play, Mayfield steps up and looks to run, but keeps his head up and finds an open man eventually. In similar situations over the past couple of seasons, we've often identified Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh McCown missing opportunities to make similar plays by not keeping their heads up when they take off:


The jury is still out on Mayfield, who can really bolster his stock in the playoffs and during the pre-draft process. NFL executives apparently aren't overly concerned with his height, but if recent rumors that he's expected to only run a 4.8 or 4.9 at the combine prove accurate, then that will put an end to any thoughts of a Wilson comparison because Wilson ran a 4.55.

That might push him closer to a Manziel comparison, which hurts him, especially with some of the off-field issues that have plagued him. Mayfield transferred out of Texas Tech due to differences with the coaching staff, got himself arrested for drink-related offenses in February and recently had a team-suspension and was stripped of the captaincy for controversial unsportsmanlike gestures.

There's no concrete reason to believe Mayfield is going to be as much of a trainwreck as Manziel off the field though and let's not forget that Manziel was drafted high because of his unique skill-set, elements of which Mayfield shares. Maybe Mayfield can be closer to the version of Manziel those teams that were high on him naively thought they'd be getting.

It's difficult to predict where Mayfield is going to go in the draft and even more difficult to project how good he'll be at the pro level. Teams will be watching him closely over the next few months to get as much additional information as they can. While it will be impossible for him to convince every team to show interest in him, some are certain to be intrigued based on his performances of late.