INDIANAPOLIS — Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield would love a chance to turn the Browns around, saying Friday before a large media contingent at the NFL Scouting Combine that Cleveland is close to turning the franchise’s fortunes.
“If there’s anyone to turn them around it’s me,” Mayfield said at the Indianapolis Convention Center, the first quarterback to the podium from what is perceived to be a loaded group in the 2018 NFL Draft. “I’m ready from Day 1 to be a franchise guy.”
The Browns are thought to be in the market for a quarterback and own two of the first four picks in the draft. The New York Giants, who pick second, could draft an heir to Eli Manning, and the New York Jets and Denver Broncos are also in the quarterback market.
Mayfield labeled himself the best player in the draft and “the most accurate quarterback here, by far” in a 14-minute session with topics ranging from where he could wind up to whether his height — 6-foot 5/8 inches — is a detriment or deterrent for NFL evaluators.
“Height doesn’t matter — I have three years of tape you can watch,” said Mayfield, projected to be off the board in the first 20 picks of the draft and possibly land in the top 10. “I have fewer passes batted down than other guys here and I’m pretty sure I’m shorter.”
Southern Cal quarterback Sam Darnold, considered by some the top passer in the draft, said Friday he was uncomfortable declaring himself the best at his position.
“I feel like that’s for other people to decide,” Darnold said. “I really want to prove to people that I’m capable of leading a franchise. I won’t know how to lead a franchise until I’m actually doing it.”
Mayfield said he understands the point of the NFL Scouting Combine, where more than 300 prospects and nearly the same number of scouts and NFL team executives converge each year, is to find out “what’s wrong with you.”
Detractors of Wyoming’s Josh Allen, another likely first-rounder, are critical of his 56.7 percent completion percentage in the Mountain West Conference. Allen checks plenty of other boxes at 6-foot-4 7/8, 237 pounds and the ability to throw the ball nearly 70 yards.
Allen, working out in San Clemente, Calif., since early January with Darnold and former NFL quarterback Jordan Palmer, said Friday he continues to refine his footwork to eliminate throws made “all arm.”
UCLA’s Josh Rosen is also in the picture, and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph and Luke Falk of Washington State are likely to attract their own supporters as general managers and scouting staffs continue the critique leading up to the 2018 draft. Some teams reportedly asked Jackson to work out at wide receiver at the combine, but he declined.
“I’m strictly a quarterback,” said Jackson, who won the 2017 Heisman Trophy. “Whoever likes me at quarterback, that’s where I’m going.
“No teams have asked me to work out at wide receiver. I don’t know where it comes from.”
Even if a consensus opinion existed, Mayfield doesn’t sound ready to relent.
Broncos vice president and general manager John Elway said there is no height stigma in the NFL due to the success of Drew Brees. Mayfield also worked under Denver’s coaching staff in Mobile at the Senior Bowl in January. Seahawks GM John Schneider spoke at the same podium Mayfield did Friday and echoed Elway’s position, pointing to Russell Wilson as Seattle’s in-house example for shifting their scouting thresholds on QB height.
“You’ve got Drew Brees — they’ve proven that you can do it,” Elway said. “He’s obviously very much a competitor. He’s had a great college career and won the Heisman Trophy. He’s proved he can play.”
Mayfield completed over 67 percent of his passes last season and led Oklahoma to the College Football Playoff. While the OU offense isn’t a conventional pro-style system, Mayfield operated from the pocket regularly.
Accuracy is a question scouts have about Allen, but perhaps the biggest worry about Mayfield is whether he crossed the line as a competitor. Elway said “I like a guy with that kind of passion,” and Chiefs coach Andy Reid said the fire Mayfield shows on the field is not a concern.
“I don’t think I’m cocky. It’s not cocky. It’s confident,” Mayfield said in response to whether he’ll need to temper his cockiness in a locker room of “grown men.”
“I’m not going to go in the locker room and act like I’ve got it all figured out.”
Mayfield might not be asked to play immediately, but the weighty chip on his shoulder won’t allow him to embrace clipboard duty. Asked of one such hypothetical scenario — backing up Manning in 2018 — Mayfield said he’d be competing every second of every day.
“First things first, whichever team I go to, I’m not going to settle for a backup job,” Mayfield said.
–Jeff Reynolds, Field Level Media