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Baker Mayfield digs the deep ball

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Browns quarterback was among league’s best on deep passes despite posting a disappointing 2019 campaign.

NFL: Cleveland Browns at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 season was not kind to Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield.

Unable to duplicate the success of his rookie campaign, when Mayfield broke the record for touchdown passes by a first-year quarterback, the season started out rough in Week 1 as Mayfield threw three interceptions and was sacked five times.

Things, for the most part, when downhill from there as Mayfield saw his completion percentage, touchdown passes, yards gained from pass attempts and his quarterback rating decline from his rookie season, while his interceptions and number of sacks increased.

There was one thing that Mayfield was good at, however, at that was throwing the deep ball.

That is according to NFL.com’s Nick Shook, who used Next Gen Stats to determine the top 10 quarterbacks from last season who excelled at completing long passes. Shook took each quarterback’s completion percentage above expectation (the difference between a quarterback’s actual completion percentage and expected completion percentage), eliminated any pass attempt of less than 20 air yards, and came up with his list.

Mayfield checks in at No. 10 with a difference of +3.9 percentage points:

Jameis Winston truthers are shouting in dismay at this placement, but again, this is what the numbers tell us. Interestingly, Mayfield’s deep-ball passer rating was significantly worse than his rookie season (as was much of his game from Year 1 to Year 2), dropping from 106 to 72.9. The heaves for big plays turned into heaves for big turnovers in 2019 for Mayfield, who was one of two quarterbacks on this list to post an even or worse TD-to-INT ratio on deep passes. Having said all of that, Mayfield still found a way to squeeze passes into places they shouldn’t fit, attempting tight-window throws on 40.6 percent of deep attempts while enjoying the luxury of open receivers on just 14.1 percent of such attempts. An offseason for his star receivers to get healthy should boost these numbers in 2020.

Given that Mayfield should be playing behind an offensive line that has undergone a major upgrade at the tackle positions with Jack Conklin and Jedrick Wills Jr., and with the expected return to health of wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, it does seem likely that Mayfield can increase his numbers across the board and get back on track this season.