Cleveland Browns: Kirk Herbstreit was right about Baker Mayfield
ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit praised the Cleveland Browns for drafting Baker Mayfield, and he was exactly right in his analysis about the pick.
When the Cleveland Browns selected Baker Mayfield with the first overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, it drew mixed reviews from just about everybody.
Many saw his leadership traits, winning mentality, and NCAA leading accuracy as a recipe for a great quarterback. But others saw his height, the conference he was playing in, and some questionable decisions creating questions about his maturity as signs that he would be the next Johnny Manziel.
Just look at the ESPN broadcast during draft night. NFL Draft expert Mel Kiper Jr. was not a fan of Mayfield, saying that his height, lack of athleticism, and his ‘antics’ made him not like the Browns selecting him over Sam Darnold.
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Next to Kiper on the desk was Kirk Herbstreit and Louis Riddick, who both saw a lot of great things in Mayfield. But it was Herbstreit’s analysis of the pick that stood out. And Mayfield has helped prove Herbstreit right.
“If one of these guys separated themselves based on their evaluations, in my mind it is Baker Mayfield,” Herbstreit said before the pick. “And it’s not just that he scrambles around and makes plays, this guy can sit in the pocket. He is the most accurate of any of these quarterbacks in this draft. And he brings all the intangibles that you want.
“It’s not Johnny Manziel. This kid is a proven winner, high school, college. He walked-on twice, he led his team to three Big 12 Championships. And I think he gets his locker room to believe in him that they can win. And after 19 years of struggling, [the Browns] need a guy that has that big heart, and he’s such a competitor.”
In just his first season with the Browns, Mayfield has already shown all of the things that Herbstreit talked about, especially when he mentioned Mayfield’s ability in the pocket.
The expectation was that Mayfield would need to be moving around outside of the pocket to have success as a rookie quarterback. However, Mayfield has shown great sense and has been able to navigate the pocket with great awareness. He can throw accurately from the pocket with a lot of zip behind the ball.
Mayfield has consistently been throwing into tight windows from the pocket with success. He has been making throws that has made it nearly impossible for defenders to make a play on the ball. His accuracy has quickly translated to the NFL, and he has made every throw that he has been asked to make. Just go to Brian Baldinger’s twitter to hear about how good Mayfield’s arm is.
Herbstreit also talked about the intangibles of Mayfield and how he is able to lead a locker room. It is obvious that Mayfield is the leader of the Browns locker room, despite being a rookie. With Mayfield at quarterback, players are rallying around him and playing with more confidence.
Following the Browns loss to the Texans, most of the talk around the locker room was how well Mayfield handled himself. J.C. Tretter explained why Mayfield has already become the leader of the locker room – via Jimmy Watkins of ClevelandBrowns.com.
"“His leadership — especially as a rookie coming in — it’s so genuine,” Tretter said. “People want to be around him; people gravitate toward him. And that’s big because you gotta take a big step being a rookie in the locker room as well as leading older, veteran players. It’s one of those things if you push too hard, if you are deemed fake, then people are gonna push back on you. But Baker’s such a natural leader, such a genuine good person, it’s made it easy to have older guys kinda gravitate toward him, work with and be excited to play with him.”"
Being able to have the older veteran players follow a rookie’s leadership is a rare thing in the NFL. Mayfield is doing exactly what Herbstreit said he would and is making the locker room believe they can win every game. But not only was Herbstreit correct about Mayfield on the field. He also talked about how Mayfield will fit perfectly into the city of Cleveland.
“I grew up in Ohio, I feel the Browns pain. Their fan base, one of the most loyal fan bases. And fellas, congratulations on this pick. Because Baker Mayfield will fit into that city perfectly. He will be one of you. He is a blue collar guy. He wants to win. He will do everything he can to try and turn that franchise around.”
Herbstreit hit the nail on the head with that analysis. Just look at the Browns home finale against the Cincinnati Bengals. Mayfield asked the fans to fill the stadium and show their support. The result was a sell out and one of the louder crowds that FirstEnergy Stadium has held in a long time.
Mayfield understands the passion of the fan base and knows that Cleveland is a football town. He is becoming a star in the city, not just because of his talent, but because he understands what drives this city. The fans love him because his work ethic resembles the work ethic of the people in the city.
Herbstreit is one of the best analysts in any sport. Everything he said on draft night about Mayfield has practically come true in the quarterbacks first season with the Browns. Herbstreit deserves credit for his analysis, because he could not have been more right.