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With Baker Mayfield, there’s an inconsistency to his tape.
At times the Oklahoma quarterback played with the desired rhythm and timing NFL teams want, throwing with precise accuracy from the pocket in a structured passing game. At other times you saw a quarterback who was a little frenetic and chaotic, especially when he was dealing with pressure.
Overall, there’s a lot to like about Mayfield as an NFL prospect, given his ability to play effectively within structure, and also his second-reaction instincts. But to be a believer in Mayfield, a team must accept a concerning lack of fundamental discipline in his game against the blitz.
Let’s look at what makes Mayfield a top prospect, and what he’ll have to work on as he enters the NFL:
Mayfield was a great fit in Oklahoma’s structured offense
Oklahoma had a highly schemed pass game with multiple backfield actions and misdirection/deception concepts that helped define reads and throws for Mayfield. And within that offense (which had NFL route concept combinations like flood and post-wheel), Mayfield thrived. Most of Mayfield’s success, as he won a Heisman Trophy, came within the structure of that offense. He ran it very well.
This play against Texas in 2016 is representative of Mayfield. It’s a play-action boot left with Dede Westbrook running a deep post from back side. Mayfield set his feet and delivered the deep ball accurately for a 71-yard touchdown.
Later in that game Mayfield made another nice play on a touchdown to Westbrook. Westbrook ran a sluggo route (slant-and-go) and Mayfield delivered a beautiful ball to him with great timing.
What stands out about Mayfield as a passer is he did not have to work hard to throw the ball. He’s an easy thrower who can deliver with velocity and accuracy through a compact delivery.
You can see the arm strength on this play. Last season against Texas, Mayfield has plenty of time, finds a receiver deep downfield and throws it 62 yards in the air for a score.
What you also see in that play is that Mayfield can make plays when he improvises. When he moved in the pocket, he would run when demanded but he was moving to throw, not run. He did not drop his eyes when he moved, instead looking downfield for a receiver. He has excellent feel to avoid and throw.
While improvisation is a part of Mayfield’s game, what stood out most watching his tape is that almost all of Mayfield’s explosive plays (15 yards or more) came within the structure of the offense and in rhythm. He was good at operating within the framework of that highly structured Sooners offense.
What I like most about Mayfield is his ability to play effectively within the structure of an offense, his consistently precise ball placement and his playmaking dimension to beat a defense’s X’s and O’s.
Mayfield’s biggest adjustment will have to come when he faces pressure
There’s a little more concern about Mayfield when that structure breaks down.
What I found watching his tape is a big difference in his his pocket demeanor and production in clean pockets when compared to times he was blitzed or faced pressure. When he faced the blitz you could see he was not a technician in regards to mechanics and fundamentals. There were suddenly a lot of off-balance throws with poor footwork and a lack of a firm base. He also had a tendency to drop his eyes against the blitz, which isn’t good. Those issues get exacerbated in the NFL.
You could see Mayfield’s tendency to play fast and impatient, with active and at times chaotic feet, in the second half of the Rose Bowl against Georgia. On this play, a third-and-3, Mayfield immediately breaks down and ends up taking a sack. He’s too frenetic on this play.
Later in the game, Mayfield again reacts to the rush before he has to. He breaks down too quickly, and it ends up as a sack. It’s not a blitz but you see that he’s not the same player when he’s perceiving pressure.
Those are examples of plays in which Mayfield needs to calm his helmet and more comfortably eliminate and isolate. You have to wonder if the chaotic and frenetic element of Mayfield’s game is part of his playing DNA.
There are other things about Mayfield that are a bit concerning. There is a lot of looseness and lack of discipline in Mayfield’s game. He tends to drift off the mid-line on straight drop-backs and move into pressure at times. He had an unrefined sense of when to isolate and eliminate; there were too many snaps when his head was working side-to-side indicating he saw everything and nothing. My sense was he had better vision on the move than he did in the pocket. He also had a tendency to be a beat late with defined reads and throws.
A lot of these things are common for young quarterbacks coming into the NFL, but they are things Mayfield will need to work on.
Mayfield’s transition to the NFL
The best of Mayfield is very good. You see him play with rhythm and timing in an offensive structure. But other times you see he’s not a pocket technician, and there’s a lot of unnecessary and wasted movement in his play.
Mayfield will be at his best if he’s in a structured passing game. Again, the biggest takeaway I had from his film study was that almost all of his 15-plus yard pass plays were within structure and in rhythm. He was very productive in OU’s offense, and he can be productive in the NFL too. There’s a lot to like about his game. His success in the NFL will ultimately come down to cleaning up the few areas of his game that need some work.
GREG COSELL’S PREVIOUS DRAFT BREAKDOWNS
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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Before the NFL draft, Cosell will join Yahoo Sports to share his observations on some of the top prospects.