1. Cleveland Browns need Baker to pick up where he left off
In 2020, when Baker Mayfield was on, he was a top-10 quarterback in the NFL. To take that a step further, he was a top-three quarterback during the second half of the season.
Men lie, women lie, but numbers don’t lie.
As Brandon Little of Sports Illustrated wrote about, ProFootballFocus graded Mayfield as a top-10 quarterback in the NFL in 2020, ranking him sixth with a grade of 81.6.
In the first six games of the season, Mayfield looked to be taking huge steps backward. That was expected being that he was in his fourth system in three years all while having to learn that fourth system during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Once Mayfield was able to grasp the offense to its full extent, he was off to the races. He had his coming-out party in the Week 7 game against the Bengals. After throwing an interception on his first pass attempt, he completed a franchise-record 21 consecutive passes before spiking the ball to stop the clock, counting as an incompletion. His next pass was the game-winner to Donovan Peoples-Jones.
From then on, Mayfield was proving why the Browns were right to draft him first overall in 2018. He is a pivotal piece to the rebuilding puzzle and now, he is in a position to take not only himself but his team to greater heights.
Mayfield got to have a full offseason fine-tuning what he can do in this offense. No new schemes, no new verbiage, no new coaching staff. In fact, the Browns return every single offensive starter from a year ago, including the aforementioned offensive line.
Odell Beckham Jr. was injured on that interception Mayfield threw in Cincinnati, but he returns looking healthier than ever. There have been questions about the quarterback’s chemistry with his star wide receiver, which is why they worked on it extensively this offseason.
Mayfield also has the luxury of having Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones, David Njoku, and Austin Hooper returning. He also has a potential new deep-threat in rookie Anthony Schwartz, who can be an explosive target for Mayfield to unleash the rock to.
All signs point to Mayfield taking the next step this season and it all starts with Kansas City on Sunday. In the playoff matchup, Mayfield put together a quality outing, despite throwing an interception. He finished 23-of-37 for 204 yards, a touchdown, and the pick. He nearly brought his team back, but ultimately fell short.
Baker always plays with a chip on his shoulder, and if he plays effectively as he did in the second half of last season, he will put his team in an excellent position to knock off the defending AFC champs and prove a lot of people wrong.