There is no in-between with Baker Mayfield.
You either love a quarterback who made it as a walk-on not once, but twice — a player who built himself into a winner and was rewarded for his accomplishments with the highest individual honor in college football.
Or you say “no thanks” to a player who doesn’t possess the physical stature of a prototype quarterback and whose temperament is sometimes so over-the-top that he’s liable to incur the wrath of an opponent simply with an inappropriate gesture.
You covet a player whose attitude sometimes blurs the line between confidence and cockiness, who already has produced a behind-the-scenes Facebook Watch series, “Behind Baker.” Or you look for a more conventional quarterback who concerns himself more with x’s and o’s than self-promotion.
With Mayfield, it sure feels like boom-or-bust. Now it’s a matter of where he proves he’ll be as good as he says he is. Or whether he’ll turn out to be a flop.
Mayfield is almost a lock to be a top 5 pick, and the Jets at No. 3 have shown serious interest in him. The Giants, who have the second overall pick, also have studied Mayfield closely, as have the Browns (1st and 4th), Broncos (5th) and Bills (12th but with a chance to move up in a trade).
Wherever he winds up, the spotlight will shine brightly.
“I can handle the spotlight,” Mayfield said. “I think under pressure is something I thrive on. First things first. You’ve got to win. Doesn’t matter where you are.”
You can’t argue with his stature as a winning quarterback in college. Mayfield, who made it as a walk-on at Texas Tech and then went on to three highly productive seasons at Oklahoma, compiled incredible stats along the way. At Oklahoma, he threw a combined 119 touchdown passes and 21 interceptions, including 43 touchdowns and six interceptions last year. He was entirely deserving of the Heisman Trophy after such a brilliant performance in 2017.
But he’s not a perfect prospect, by any means.
At a shade under 6-1, Mayfield doesn’t have ideal height and may struggle as a pocket passer in the NFL, where all but a handful of shorter quarterbacks have struggled. The two most noteworthy exceptions in today’s game: future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees of the Saints and Russell Wilson of the Seahawks.
Mayfield bristles at the idea he can’t succeed because of his size.
“Height doesn’t matter,” he said. “If you want to say anything else, I’ve got three years of tape you can watch. Height doesn’t matter at that point.”
Mayfield also had the benefit of playing mostly in a spread offense in college, so the transition to the more conventional pro type offense in the NFL could be a major adjustment. There is a long list of great college players who starred in the spread offense but then struggled in the pros.
Mayfield’s character has also come into question. He was arrested on Feb. 25 in Fayetteville, Ark. and charged with public intoxication, disorderly conduct, fleeing and resisting arrest. Mayfield reached a plea deal in June and agreed to pay $300 in fines, as well as $160 in court costs and $483.20 in restitution.
His on-field demeanor also was criticized last season — once when he planted the Oklahoma team flag in the middle of the field after a win at Ohio State and the other when he grabbed his crotch and delivered an expletive on the sideline during a win over Kansas. Mayfield subsequently apologized for both incidents.
Johnny Manziel 2.0?
“When it comes to that comparison,” Mayfield said, “we’re two completely different people.”
Mayfield insists his personality won’t be a detriment.
“I love the game, I’m up front and honest,” he said. “I know exactly what I’m about, and that’s the important thing. What you see is what you get. I want to get drafted to a team that knows exactly what they’re getting.”
What that team is getting is an electrifying athletic talent with a personality to match.
That’s a potentially combustible combination, but Mayfield isn’t backing down. Which could turn out to be a good thing.
Or not so much.