Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield has garnered attention as an incredibly accurate passer, but is that really the case?
Since being selected by the Cleveland Browns in the 2018 NFL Draft, Baker Mayfield has been considered to be one of the most accurate young passers. It was arguably his best trait coming out of Oklahoma, and he has shown the ability to throw into tight windows during his first two seasons in the NFL.
After completing 68.5 percent of his pass attempts during his college career, including completing 69.8 percent of his pass attempts during his three seasons at Oklahoma, Mayfield followed that up by completing 63.8 percent of his attempts during his rookie season in 2018.
In 2018, Mayfield showed an ability to deliver quick-hitting throws where they needed to be, allowing the receivers to get upfield and gain yards after the catch. He also showed he could drop throws into bucket when pushing the ball downfield.
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Former Browns quarterback and current college and NFL analyst for FOX Sports and CBS Sports HQ, Brady Quinn, told Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com that he believes Mayfield is one of the most accurate passers he has ever seen.
“He’s deadly accurate,’’ Quinn said. “I was combing through his throws preparing for the Big 12 championship game vs. TCU and I said on the broadcast, ‘he’s one of the most accurate passers of any level that I’ve ever seen.’" - Brady Quinn via Cleveland.com
However, Mayfield's accuracy took a drop in 2019. Not only was he missing throws downfield, but he was missing the short to intermediate throws he excelled with in 2018, with a tendency to miss high and overthrow his targets. Mayfield finished the 2019 season completing only 59.4 of his pass attempts.
The struggles Mayfield had in 2019 completing passes, as well as his total struggles in the Freddie Kitchens and Todd Monken offense, made CBS Sports NFL Draft analyst, Chris Trapasso, question Mayfield's reputation for being an accurate quarterback.
Mayfield's performance last season did raise some concerns about his play in the NFL, which is making 2020 a potentially make-or-break season for the young quarterback. He had high expectations after setting the rookie passing touchdown record, and he certainly disappointed after he looked extremely uncomfortable sitting in the pocket, which had an effect on his accuracy.
The poor play of the offensive line certainly had an effect on Mayfield's performance, as the offensive front struggled to contain pressure. With pressure getting to Mayfield frequently, the quarterback seemed more focused on scrambling out of the pocket instead of delivering throws.
Mayfield being hesitant in the pocket also affected his footwork, which was a reason for his accuracy issues. The pressure forcing Mayfield to scramble and throw on the run also affected his overall accuracy, which could play a role in his poor accuracy percentage Trapasso is referring to.
The type of offense Mayfield was playing in last season also played a large role, as Mayfield was expected to deliver the ball downfield more often than he was during his rookie season. Not only were these low percentage throws, but they also caused Mayfield to wait for the routes to develop, allowing more pressure to collapse the pocket.
Mayfield's low ranking in accuracy percentage during his rookie season in 2018 is curious considering he had a better feel for the offense and was delivering throws all over the field. However, it must be noted that Mayfield's better performances in 2018 were against weaker defenses, giving Mayfield better chances of completing throws into bigger windows, even if his throws were not as accurate as they could have been.
The 25-year-old is known for being a gunslinger quarterback, so he can deliver throws into tight windows. However, throwing into tight windows also creates more risk as defenders have better chances to make plays on the ball, leading to more incompletions and interceptions.
Although Mayfield has shown the ability to throw into those tight windows, continuing to throw into those windows and missing will make him look like more of an inaccurate quarterback. If Mayfield would take fewer chances throwing into the tight windows, perhaps his accuracy percentage would increase.
Mayfield does have a tendency to get messy with his footwork, which has played a role in his high, errant throws. However, new Browns offensive coordinator Alex Van Pelt has already introduced changes in Mayfield's technique with the idea of improving his accuracy. If Mayfield can successfully make those changes, perhaps his accuracy will improve even more in 2020.
Mayfield can be an accurate quarterback when he shows confidence in the pocket and is not taking too many risks. He may not be as accurate of a quarterback as some make him out to be, but his general accuracy is certainly not a major issue.