The biggest mistake any NFL team could make in 2018 is passing on Baker Mayfield.
For the Denver Broncos, not only would it be a mistake to pass on Mayfield, it would be a tragedy, because Baker Mayfield is exactly what the Denver Broncos need to turn this whole thing around in 2018. No high-priced free agent, no offseason trade for a mid-tier quarterback. The answer is simple: Go draft Baker Reagan Mayfield, quarterback Oklahoma Sooners.
It’s no secret that the Denver Broncos will be looking for a quarterback in 2018 to lead this team back to prominence, but who, what and how are all question marks. Names like Kirk Cousins and Nick Foles have been mentioned as free-agent possibilities, even Peyton Manning’s little brother Eli has been brought into the mix as a possible ingredient to the elixir that will heal the Broncos’ woes. But these names all will come at high cost, and all might not fix the problem.
Cousins, everyone’s front-runner in the free-agent world, is expected to be in the market for over $20 million per year. Cousins has been franchised tagged two years in a row in Washington, and he wants a better long-term contract than the one offered last offseason. With the demand for a quarterback rising like the cost of Bitcoin, he will no doubt get exactly what he wants — a huge contract for a very long time.
If the Broncos go the route of Cousins it will come at a cost, not only money but of lost talent. With the NFL salary cap being the way it is, you cannot have a quarterback making huge money and still be able to pay an elite defense what it demands. The contract of Von Miller, for example, will take up 14.53 percent of the salary cap for the 2018 Denver Broncos ($22.4 million). If the Broncos were to sign Cousins at his current contract rate of almost $24 million per year (he will likely sign for more), the two players, Miller and Cousins, would equate to more than 28 percent of the salary cap (that does not account for the annual cap increase, it should be noted). By signing Kirk Cousins, you would have to make room, and risk losing what elite talent you do have on this Broncos roster. The math just does not work when adding Cousins.
So how can you bake a cake and eat it too? Draft a Baker.
Baker Mayfield, like any of these young quarterbacks who have been drafted, will not cost a team much of anything. The rookie wage scale in the NFL now allows teams to draft talent and not be handcuffed by mistakes. Now you can draft a quarterback in the first round and not be hurt by his contract for years to come. The Broncos, even though they drafted Paxton Lynch in the first round two years ago, can go back and do it again. Lynch, if still on the roster in 2018, will cost the Broncos just over $2.5 million. You can again draft a quarterback in the first round and it is not going to hurt you. Draft Mayfield and you get to keep everyone you want, and you can go sign more. The reward far outweighs the risk.
So why draft Baker? Why not someone else?
Baker Mayfield is seen as a wild card, a risk-taking gunslinger who had off-field issues, but he is far more than that. Mayfield is a franchise quarterback.
Baker Mayfield, the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner, is the most accurate passer in college football; unlike most, he isn’t doing it three yards at a time.
Baker Mayfield in his three seasons as the Oklahoma Sooners quarterback has a 70 percent completion rate and an adjusted passing yards per attempt (AY/A) of 12.0.
By comparison, Andrew Luck, who was deemed the most sure and ready quarterback to be drafted out of college since Peyton Manning, had a completion percentage of 67 percent and a AY/A of 9.5. Great numbers, but Mayfield’s are even better.
But is Baker Mayfield ready now?
Most college quarterbacks do not make their own protections calls, change plays at the line by way of audible or even go through a passer’s progression. Fact is, most college quarterbacks actually don’t even call a play at all. They look to the sideline and check with the coach, a call is made and the team proceeds to run the play. This makes the transition from college to pro that much more difficult.
Oklahoma runs a high-tempo “check with me” offense, but they don’t check with coach Lincoln Riley as they did in 2016; they now check with No. 6, Baker Mayfield.
Mayfield before this season was an electric presence who was fun to watch and had the ability to become something special. This season Mayfield transformed into more than that. In 2017 he became a leader and a coach on the field that can make the call, run the play and, if they play breaks down, turn nothing into something.
People want to tear down Baker Mayfield. They do not like the mistakes. They don’t like the swagger. They don’t like his fire, his drive, his bravado or his attitude. All of that, all of the mess that Baker brings to the table — dotting the “O” at Ohio State, yelling back at Jayhawks fans, taunting the opponent after a big play, running down the sidelines to celebrate a touchdown — all of that is exactly what the Denver Broncos need.
The Broncos need a quarterback with fire, with bravado, with attitude. They need someone on the offensive side of the ball to show that elite defense that they too came here to win, and the Denver defense is no longer the only show in town.
The Denver Broncos defense has attitude and swagger to go along with big-time talent. The Broncos defense also has colossal personalities in Aqib Talib, Derek Wolfe, Von Miller, Chris Harris, Darian Stewart. They walk the walk, while talking the talk. Often times this has spilled into the locker room and even the field when things were not going in the Broncos’ favor. The defense, in so many words, are the bullies and the offense was just along for the ride.
The addition of Baker Mayfield would instantly bring some of that attitude and passion to the offensive side of the ball. Mayfield, who is hated by rivals but loved by teammates, would be a voice — the leader of a group of guys who often times appear without one.
Baker Mayfield is a talent. He is one of the most accurate passers to ever play college football and has arm strength to go with it. Mayfield has passion and fire, and he comes cheap. The Broncos have a lot of questions to answer this offseason. When asking what the Broncos need to do at quarterback in 2018, the answer is simple: Go get Baker Mayfield.