It could be the top of a boxing card, and the fight that might be ahead of these two may make a boxing reference even more accurate. Having long been convinced that no matter what, the Cleveland Browns will roll with Tyrod Taylor as their 2018 starter, ironically, Bake Mayfield has me second guessing.
It’s nothing the Browns themselves have outright said, though plenty of the local prognosticators have suggested it, Mayfield may be given a chance to win the starting QB job.
From day one the Browns have maintained that Tyrod Taylor will be the starting QB for the Browns this season, and when it looked like they would be taking either Sam Darnold or Josh Allen it only reinforced the idea. Both Allen and Darnold were raw talents with areas in their game that could use some maturation. With Allen, it was the need to work on his accuracy and footwork, something NFL coaches could have spent time developing and correcting before inserting him into a starting job. Darnold’s gunslinger mentality and propensity for turnovers were the drawbacks that watching some film of NFL defenses with a veteran quarterbacks input could have helped with.
Both Darnold and Allen, in my mind, had two of the highest ceilings in the draft, higher overall than Baker Mayfield. The irony is that the Browns took Mayfield, with his “lower ceiling”, and Mayfield may be the most pro-ready passer in the draft.
Mayfield’s accuracy is one of his strong points as is his ability to protect the football and his “intangibles” are perhaps the biggest reason the Browns spent the #1 overall pick on him. The knocks on Mayfield are that he doesn’t have prototypical size and his arm strength isn’t out of this world, neither of those are things that can be improved sitting on the bench. Mayfield also brings a plethora of experience with 48 NCAA starts.
There are two arguments that could be made for keeping Mayfield on the sideline in 2018. The first, he spent his entire NCAA career playing in a spread offense and has no experience taking snaps under center. This is a legitimate hurdle for the young QB to overcome but he’s already made it a primary focus.
“We are going to hammer that until I am good and it feels natural,” Mayfield said during the Browns recent rookie minicamp. “That is the way it should be because I can play out of the ‘gun. Everybody here knows that. We are going to hammer that, and we are going to work on what I need to work on so that we can go from there.”
If he can hone in on playing under center, the only other argument would revolve around his attitude. Perhaps the biggest knock on Mayfield was his perceived arrogance and fiery antics on and off the field. Truthfully, though, both of these things are desirable attributes in a starting quarterback if they are properly focused. You want a passer who believes in themselves and who can tell Mayfield that belief is misplaced after he convinced the Browns to spend the #1 pick on him?
The reality is, Mayfield may be as ready now to try his hand at the helm of an NFL offense as he ever will and the fact remains, Tyrod Taylor is on a one year deal. If Mayfield shows he can competently handle the Browns offense and take snaps from under center, then the Browns would be wise to insert him into the starting lineup and jumpstart their franchise QB’s development earlier than anticipated.
It may not be Ali v. Frasier but, given the buzz around Cleveland, Taylor v. Mayfield may well dominate the sports headlines in August. Once again the Browns have options, and that’s a good thing.