The Cleveland Browns haven’t had a lot to get excited about in recent memory. Or ever.
When they drafted Oklahoma star quarterback Baker Mayfield with the first pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the franchise and it’s fan base were understandably swept up in a whirlwind of excitement and skepticism.
One season into the marriage, it’s looking like the Browns and their fans may have finally found their guy. That nearly equated a trip to the playoffs, too, and also finally got the walking debacle that is Hue Jackson off of Cleveland’s sidelines.
Mayfield was so good that he broke the single-season passing touchdown record (27) for a rookie quarterback, he helped an 0-16 team get seven wins and he looked pretty darn good in the process. So, why then is Mayfield still not the favorite when you look at the latest NFL Rookie of the Year odds?
Saquon Barkley Leads the Way
Instead of the obviously deserving Mayfield, it’s New York Giants star rusher Saquon Barkley that carries the best odds to win the 2018-19 rookie of the year award.
I see the argument, too. Barkley was truly sensational en route to 1,307 rushing yards, 11 rushing touchdowns, an absurd 91 receptions, 721 receiving yards and another four scores through the air.
From a strict stats perspective, you could easily vouch for Barkley to win the award. Those numbers really do pop off the board, as the former Penn State product produced 2,000+ all purpose yards and found the end-zone a crazy 15 times on the year.
All of this is pretty crazy for a rookie, especially when you factor in how bad the Giants were. Not only did New York struggle with a shaky offensive line, but Barkley also produced despite a weak passing game next to him.
There were a lot of obstacles for Barkley to overcome, but his talent shined through and he delivered an amazing first NFL season.
Why Isn’t Baker Mayfield Favored?
I just said why, for the most part. Barkley’s talent was off the charts against NFL competition, arguably validating a largely criticized choice to make him a top-five draft pick.
Many felt New York should have chosen a new franchise passer with Eli Manning quickly eroding into oblivion, while players like Phillip Lindsay (also an underrated candidate for NFL ROY), James Conner and others appeared to devalue the running back position with amazing seasons.
I suppose that’s actually an argument against Barkley, isn’t it?
Still, I do get why some people aren’t so quick to crown Mayfield as the best NFL rookie this year. After all, he plays for the lowly Browns and until they started winning games this year, there has been a nasty stigma attached to them as a whole.
Mayfield also benefited from some beautiful matchups. He shredded a bad Oakland Raiders team, dropped dimes on an awful Atlanta Falcons defense and also had some spots during his first year where he padded stats due to playing from behind.
In addition, Mayfield still didn’t get the Browns into the playoffs and he also made a lot of rookie mistakes. The biggest issue, of course, would have to be Mayfield’s sometimes shaky decision-making, which resulted in 17 turnovers in just 14 appearances (13 starts).
That’s a good amount of turnovers for a Rookie of the Year candidate and Mayfield looked especially troubled in the face of two tough matchups against stout defenses in the Houston Texans (3 picks) and Baltimore Ravens (3 picks).
Mayfield was without a doubt a huge reason for any of Cleveland’s success in his first NFL campaign, but as you can see, he also played a hand in some of their losses.
Who Will Win NFL Rookie of the Year?
While I provided an argument as to why Baker Mayfield shouldn’t win NFL Rookie of the Year, he’s still my pick. You’re getting serious value with him (+220 odds at some betting websites) and there is a lot to like about what he did during his first season.
Barkley’s numbers are awesome, to be sure. However, they also could be a tad inflated and I’m not sure they’re necessarily automatically superior to Mayfield’s.
Mayfield lifted literally the worst NFL franchise. They went from zero wins to seven and at least sniffed the playoffs. He would have put up 4,000+ passing yards and over 30 scores if he’d been handed the starting gig from day one. And he had to deal with Hue Jackson and all of the dysfunction this team previously had to offer.
If you look at the numbers, the talent and the situation, Baker Mayfield should win the award. Think differently or feel somehow other than Mayfield or Barkley should win? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below!