February 25th, 2017

On a quiet, early Arkansas morning, police were responding to an assault and battery case that became what should have been the beginning of the end of one’s career. The person who called the police to report the incident was yelling at a young man who had claimed to make an attempt at breaking up the altercation. When the officer attempted to gather information from that young man, he bolted, and after eventually being caught, he resisted arrest. He was charged with public intoxication, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest and fleeing (ESPN). That was the day Baker Mayfield was written off.

September 5th, 2015

To start the 2015 college football season, the Oklahoma Sooners hosted Akron in Norman. Previously redshirted sophomore Baker Mayfield made his debut that day, impressing many in OU’s 41-3 beatdown of Akron. While this gained the attention of football fans across Oklahoma, analysts at the national level had their doubts. Standing 6’1”, Mayfield is on the smaller side of quarterbacks, a list few successful passers find their name on.

As the season progressed, Mayfield put together a nice season, totaling 3,700 yards and 36 touchdowns. Critics pointed out the fact that he plays in the FFL (Fake Football League), a.k.a. The Big 12, where defense is nonexistent. Offensive numbers across the conference are usually inflated and nontransferable to the NFL due to the lack of competent defenses.

As a passer, Mayfield was viewed as gutsy, reckless, and unable to go through progressions. He was viewed as are many big name college quarterbacks, a great college passer who won’t translate to the next level.

September 3rd, 2016

Baker Mayfield’s junior campaign got the ball rolling in terms of hype. The Sooners were projected to be a top ten team entering the year, and their quarterback was expected to continue his impressive play. He did just that as Oklahoma finished fifth in the nation, and Mayfield racked up 3,900 yards and 40 touchdowns. Still, Mayfield was viewed as a reckless passer and a day three pick. This day three perception fueled Mayfield to continue growing as a player.

Now we come back to that fateful night in Arkansas. After a great year, the hype disappeared with the appearance of an off the field blemish. His stock plummeted entering the year, and when many felt the class was QB-packed without him, he slipped some more. For example, he was my 9th ranked preseason QB, and I was not alone in hopping off the Baker Bandwagon.

Looking back on a nearly-complete season, and Baker Mayfield is back. The hype, the play, the stock… everything. But, what changed. When analyzing Baker Mayfield’s play over the last few years, a multitude of factors cumulate to create this change that we have all witnessed.

For one, Oklahoma’s really good. While the season’s not quite over, OU has looked as if they’ve made the jump from “just outside” to “we want ‘Bama”. The nation has realized, viewing the Sooners as a legit title contender, some even ranking them as the best team in the country.

Obviously, his team’s performance is important, but what is paramount is the development of his talent. Baker Mayfield is a much more efficient passer than he was as an underclassman. Statistically, Mayfield has improved his Yards/Attempt, Adjusting Passing Yards/Attempt, Completion Percentage, Passing Efficiency Rating, and Yards, with an increase in attempts as well. On a simpler scale, his touchdowns are about even with last year’s mark, and his interceptions have dropped. As a passer, he has displayed elite accuracy to all parts of the field and Mayfield has continued to dazzle with his legs, using his mobility to his advantage in order to extend plays.

Going back to his accuracy, he may possess the best accuracy in the class and at times he just won’t miss throws. In one game I charted his accuracy, he totaled an accuracy percentage of 100%. From beating up on disrespectful cellar dwellers to thriving in the spotlight, Mayfield has utilized his undeniable talent to propel him into the top ten pick conversation.

Unequivocally, quarterbacking doesn’t just come down to arm talent and some stats. Under center and in the huddle, the quarterback is the leader of his team. Guys that don’t have the persona often struggle, like Jay Cutler and Brock Osweiler. Mayfield’s polarizing personality embodies his leadership, even if his antics go a little too far. His teammates love him and the opposing team hates him, but can’t do anything to beat him. He brings a certain swagger to his team, to the likes of Cam Newton or Aaron Rodgers. The former Red Raider and current Sooner plays with a chip on his shoulder and he proves guys like me wrong every time he steps on the field.

We’ve seen his lows, but how high will he rise? Mayfield has been mocked to the Browns, who hold the first pick, but that is most likely a product of hype. His stock is a rollercoaster, and depending on who is evaluating him, his polarizing persona can make him a culture-changing face of the franchise, or the next Johnny Football. Mayfield’s rise to stardom is unique and constantly under examination as the first round label is thrown around.

The Sooner superstar has elite accuracy and an innate ability to extend plays. He is a tough, strong competitor who exhibits questionable but effective leadership qualities. Intangibles wise, his pocket presence is really bad; at the first sense of pressure he is rushing throws and exiting the pocket. His poise is confusingly fine, though. He can be erratic, running around the field before making a throw, but when a guy does get in his face, it’s the same clean delivery. Mayfield has drawn comparisons as high as Drew Brees and Russell Wilson and he certainly has the upside.

Furthermore, the first round debate is still raging on with Baker Mayfield. He has been called the best player in the nation, outperforming other high-profile QB prospects on his way to becoming a Heisman finalist. Mayfield has the talent to become a franchise changing pick and there are a number of factors lining up for him to be taken really early. The kid is legit. Is he better than Rosen? Probably not, but he is most definitely a top-five passer in the class.

Approximately a quarter of the league will be chasing after about five first-round quarterbacks. This creates demand, and over-drafting, with an inflation of draft stock. With so many teams chasing quarterbacks, teams may be swayed to pick a passer early. In what some are calling a weak class, a point I currently disagree with, teams may select a quarterback rather than a true position of need since there simply may not be a quality player there at the time of the selection.

Additionally, a lot of the teams at the top of the draft order need a new face of the franchise, so more quarterbacks are bound to go early. All of these help Mayfield if he’s looking to get drafted as high as possible. Mayfield is a roll-the-dice selection, but it is not out of the question that his name can be heard in the top ten.

Baker Mayfield has been in college for what seems like forever, but over that time, he has changed exponentially. From a reckless gunslinger to an efficient, pinpoint passer, his ability to throw the ball is close to unmatched. The swagger he brings to the table is put on display constantly, creating a certain stigma about him, which teams may or may not take into account. The hype around him has fluctuated, but his stock is at an all-time high. Whether or not it stays this high is the question. Baker Mayfield’s a bonafide stud, a guy you want on your team. And if he’s not, well, just hope he doesn’t plant a flag at midfield.

About The Author Anthony Licciardi

Anthony is a die-hard Mets, Jets and Knicks fan who's always willing to blame the owners. He's been playing sports since he's been able to walk and following the NFL Draft since 2012. Anthony covers the NFL Draft, along with the Indianapolis Colts.