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Baker Mayfield judged harshly in The Athletic’s QB rankings

Browns QB1 does not fare well when being rated by 50 NFL coaches and evaluators after rocky second year.

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Cleveland Browns v Cincinnati Bengals Photo by: 2019 Nick Cammett/Diamond Images via Getty Images

As NFL teams begin to open what everyone hopes will be an uninterrupted training camp schedule, that signals the annual trend of various websites and news organizations ranking the various players and position groups.

That includes The Athletic, which on Monday published its seventh annual listing of quarterbacks using a tier system. (The story is behind a paywall, just so you know.) The site asked 50 unnamed NFL coaches and evaluators to rate 35 veteran quarterbacks by placing each quarterback in one of five tiers, with Tier 1 being the best and Tier 5 being the worst.

The votes were then tabulated and were averaged to create a ranking and slot each player in the appropriate tier. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes came in at the very top of the list, while Washington’s Kyle Allen was at No. 35.

As for Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield, well, the evaluators do not paint a very favorable picture.

After being a Tier 2 quarterback in 2019, Mayfield took a tumble into the Tier 3 category, which The Athletic describes as “a quarterback (who) is a legitimate starter but needs a heavier running game and/or defensive component to win. A lower-volume dropback passing offense suits him best.”

With 38 of the voters placing him in Tier 3, Mayfield is listed at No. 21 after a season that saw his completion percentage fall to 59.4 percent from 63.8 percent as a rookie, his touchdown passes drop too22 from 27, and his interceptions increase to 21 from 14.

The judges pulled no punches in regard to Mayfield’s game, either, with one evaluator saying:

“Look at last year how many opportunities he had to make a play on third down and did not do it. You can’t blame it all on coaching. And he’s not a leader. He doesn’t say the right things. To me, a lot of that position is, can you lead? And he hasn’t proven so far that he can lead. Look how many times he was in the news for saying something stupid. He had to apologize to his own team. It’s one thing if you’re winning. He’s not. Go to the podium with a little humility.”

Mayfield probably needs to dial it back a bit this year - even he admitted as much during an offseason where he is “moving in silence” - but it is also quite the lazy take to claim Mayfield is not a leader simply because he ruffles the feathers of a few soft media members.

An offensive coach is also not sold on the impact that new head coach Kevin Stefanski will have on Mayfield:

“I think Kevin Stefanski will help Mayfield, but there is a risk Kevin will be so like he was in Minnesota — so close to the vest — that Mayfield’s creativity might not show up. There is a fine balance there. Mayfield is a three that needs to understand how to play quarterback better than just going back and playing street ball.”

This seems a little bit contradictory. On the one hand, this coach is worried that Stefanski will put a lid on Mayfield’s creativity while also criticizing Mayfield for being creative by playing “street ball.”

It was not all doom and gloom, however, as one executive who voted for Mayfield as a Tier 2 quarterback hit the mark a little bit better on Mayfield’s performance from last season:

“Baker is a tough one for me, but I’m going to go with a two on him because I know he can do it. For him to regress like he did, the stories I’ve heard coming out of there, I think around the right people and with the right structure, he can be a Tier 2. He needed to be in a small town, similar to Norman, and keep a thumb on him. If they do that up there, he can be a two. If they don’t, he is going to be a three that is going to frustrate you and then his mouth gets him in trouble sometimes.”

Mayfield clearly has to carry his share of the water for his struggles last season, but to attribute it to such factors as his lack of “humility at the podium” or a desire to play “street ball” ignores the fact that:

  • The offensive game plan was a mess on a weekly basis
  • The play of the left tackle, right tackle and right guard was a mess on a weekly basis
  • An injury in Week 2 to tight end David Njoku left the tight end position manned for almost the entire season by Pharaoh Brown, Stephen Carlson and Demetrius Harris, who combined for all of 22 receptions and 227 yards
  • Season-long injuries to wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. limited the amount of practice time they had with Mayfield

Ultimately, it does not matter what anyone not associated with the Browns says or thinks about Mayfield’s game. If he plays the way he is capable of playing with Stefanski’s offensive system, then the on-field results will speak for themselves.