Russell Wilson or Johnny Manziel? Baker Mayfield is everything NFL teams look for in a franchise QB ... and a little of what they fear the most.
By Chase Goodbread | Published Dec. 6, 2017
Who is Baker Mayfield?
For now, Oklahoma's ball-of-fire quarterback is drawing comparisons any top prospect at the position would want, like Russell Wilson, and one nobody would want: Johnny Manziel.
The right answer is in there somewhere, hiding among the countless shades of gray between the Seattle Seahawks' two-time NFC champion and the Cleveland Browns draft bust.
For NFL scouts, it's a little like the Rorschach Test, the psychological exam in which subjects are asked what they see in an ink-blotted symmetrical design. One can look at Mayfield and picture a dynamic future pro with the potential to anchor a franchise; another can see a prospect with too many red flags.
One key difference: the Rorschach has no wrong answers. The Mayfield evaluation will ultimately have just one right one.
In the months leading up to the 2018 NFL Draft, clubs will unearth layer upon layer of information on top draft prospects -- from on-field evaluations to character and medical assessments -- and in the case of Mayfield, the layers appear endless.
It's an aggregation of marvels and mettle and moxie, but also of mistakes and misgivings. In an effort to help answer the Mayfield Question, we spoke with various sources, both in and out of the quarterback's circle, to produce 12 facets -- a Baker's dozen, if you will -- of his remarkably complicated story:
The list means nothing to most, but it's a list Mayfield knows well. Cody Thomas, Kohl Stewart, Kenny Hill, Chris Johnson and Zach Allen are just five of the quarterbacks from Texas who signed with Big 12 or in-state schools in Mayfield's 2013 recruiting class.
He was passed over for all of them, and he hasn't forgotten it.
Major Applewhite, an assistant at Texas at the time before moving on to become head coach at Houston, raved about Mayfield's arm when he came to scout a game in 2012, Mayfield's senior year at Lake Travis High School in Austin, Texas.
"Wow, he can spin it!" Applewhite told Lake Travis coach Hank Carter.
Unfortunately for Mayfield, the compliment came too late. By that time, Texas wasn't considering another quarterback for its signing class, and the Longhorns weren't alone.
"He got an offer from Army and from Florida Atlantic. Washington State offered him at one point but they took another kid before that could come together," said Carter. "TCU recruited him for awhile, but there were a lot of quarterbacks in Texas that year. The Texas schools and Big 12 schools were filled up and he didn't get a lot of love from them."
The chip on Mayfield's shoulder is a big one; a "boulder" is how he describes it. And the Texas-schools snubbing is one of the reasons for it. TCU -- whom Mayfield is undefeated against in five tries, including a 41-17 decision in the Big 12 title game last season-- recruited him extensively, but late in the process told him there would be no offer.
Mayfield hasn't forgotten that, either.
He feels TCU's handling of his recruitment left him out to dry, because he passed on other options while waiting for the Horned Frogs' offer that was expected but never arrived.
Since then, the Mayfield-TCU relationship has had its terse moments. In 2014, when he was sidelined due to NCAA transfer rules, he was accused of stealing signals. In 2015, he was knocked out with a concussion by linebacker Ty Summers, on a hit for which Summers was ejected for targeting. Then this past season, as TCU players were making their way around Oklahoma's pre-game warmups for a Nov. 11 game, Mayfield threw a pass that plunked a TCU player directly in the head. TCU coach Gary Patterson would have nothing of any suggestion that it was accidental, calling the prank "common practice" at Texas Tech when Mayfield was there.
When asked about it, a bluntly honest Mayfield didn't suggest it was an accident, either.
"It wasn't supposed to be that serious. I didn't think it'd blow up like that," Mayfield said. "You live and learn, but it wasn't malicious. You learn from it and move on."