Once again, another football season is quickly passing us by. I can’t believe that we are already at the midway point of the NFL season and at the tail end of the college football season. November and December are known as the make or break months for many contending teams.
Playoff hunts and bowl game chases are in full swing. With those moments upon us, that means we are inching closer to another NFL draft season. One of the funnest and intriguing times of the early calendar year. It’s a season where 21-22 year-old student athletes are either praised or ripped to shreds by analysis who study their every move.
Now that we are getting closer to that time, I have decided to bring back my “Reiding Between the Lines” scouting journal. This is the first of an ongoing series of what is basically my scouting thoughts and opinions.
The journal includes a bi-weekly scouting report on a selected prospect, draft tidbits/notes, an occasional mock draft and a “six pack of thoughts”, which are just my view on current events happening around the world and sports in general.
This week’s highlighted prospect is one that is quickly ascending up draft boards.
QB Baker Mayfield — Oklahoma
Hometown: Austin, TX
Weight: 220 lbs.
NFL Comparison — Russell Wilson
Current Projected Round: Late-First
Baker Mayfield’s rise to stardom is quite unique. Even though he was a three-star prospect, he was constantly overlooked because of his height and many coaches thought he lacked the adequate arm strength in order to play on the Power-5 FBS level. He opted to take a walk-on opportunity at Texas Tech.
He went on to become the first ever walk-on quarterback to start as a true freshman, but then he suddenly decided to transfer to Oklahoma.
After suffering an undisclosed injury, Mayfield had this to say:
“When I got hurt, there was no communication between me and my coach. When I got healthy, I didn’t know why I wasn’t playing right away. At that time, we were losing a couple games in a row. I was still clueless as to why I wasn’t playing. That was really frustrating for me because I started the first five games and we won. So, I just didn’t really know exactly what he was thinking or what the situation was.”
The decision to move on to Oklahoma was ultimately one of the best decisions of his career as he is now arguably the most sought after player in the country, and believed to be the leader of the current Heisman Trophy race.
What’s There to Like?
A factor that I weigh heavily on QB prospects is their intangibles and mental makeup. How do they handle adverse situation or when their team needs them to make a play in crunch time? Mayfield passes that test with flying colors. He has outstanding intangibles. From battling through injuries against Kansas State, to leading his team to a 31-16 victory in Columbus against Ohio State, the Sooners signal-caller makes everyone else around him believe in him regardless of the circumstances that they are facing. Those type of factors are things that coaches can not coach. It is instilled in him naturally.
— Yearly Improvements
- Career Passing Stats
Sample size is an aspect that matters a lot to me with QB prospects. The bigger the sample, the better. The larger sample size allows you evaluate a lot of factors about a prospect. It allows you to most importantly see their strengths/weaknesses, but it also enables you to see the growth or decline that they are making.
Looking at Mayfield’s stats in his college career, he has shown steady growth in every major category. Diving a little deeper though, the biggest improvement that I’ve seen in Mayfield is his understanding of reading coverages and successfully getting through progressions based on what’s presented.
In the examples below, Oklahoma is running a high/low concept against the field safety (top). The slot receiver (inside) is running a 10 yard dig route across the middle of the field, while the outer-most receiver (top of screen) is running a post route.
A better view of this play concept from the tight camera view angle, this play is designed for Mayfield to read the circled safety. If the safety chases the dig route across the middle, then he should throw the post route over his head. If the safety stays in his backpedal and takes away the post route, then he should throw it to the dig route that is coming right back into his sight line.
Mayfield correctly reads this play, but also puts plenty of zip behind the ball into a tightly contested window where only his target can catch it. This is the type of progressions and throws that gets you most excited about Mayfield and his NFL potential.
One of the biggest misconceptions about Mayfield is that he intentionally breaks contain and runs around in hopes of eventually finding a target to throw to. That is not the case. Mayfield has consistently shown that he can win from the pocket, but has the ability to extend plays when the original concept is not open.
A comparison that seems to be popular for Mayfield is Johnny Manziel, which is valid and invalid in a sense. What they both do have in common though is that they are able to make Houdini-like throws by extending plays, but what Mayfield does a better job of than Manziel is keeping his eyes up and consistently throwing with accuracy while on the run.
When he scrambles, Mayfield does not look to just run. He has an uncanny ability of being able to avoid defenders while still being able to find open receivers down the field. He does not make a living off of doing this though. He’s shown that he can consistently stand in the pocket and be an accurate passer.
What Needs to Be Improved?
— Understanding Where the Check-down Is
Being in an air-raid system, the ultimate goal of the passing concepts is to stretch the defense as much as humanly possible vertically and horizontally. As a result of these beliefs repeatedly getting taught to the QB, the thrower often times gets fixated on what’s happening down field. When things aren’t open downfield, they often forget about where or who their checkdown is, and the QB ends up hanging on to the ball way too long.
— Off the Field Questions
Last February, Mayfield was arrested and charged with public intoxication, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and fleeing. All caught on video, of course this grabbed national headlines. At the combine and during his pre-draft visits, the Oklahoma signal-caller will have to answer a multitude of questions about what exactly happened and if teams will be able to count on him in the future.
— Eye Discipline/Seeing Underneath Defenders
Many times with college QBs they do not understand the importance of moving defenders with subtle head movements and their eyes. Linebackers and safeties in zone coverage are taught to follow the eyes of the QB because that will take them to where the thrower is eventually going to throw the ball.
A prime example of this is here. At times, Mayfield get’s fixated on throwing to a single target or force feeding someone in certain situations. The middle linebacker underneath follows Mayfield’s eye directly to where he’s throwing the ball. Mayfield must learn how to manipulate defenders with eyes and take him to where he wants them to go.
The Scouts Eye View
J.R.’s 2018 First-Round Mock Draft: 1.0
1. Cleveland Browns: QB/Josh Rosen — UCLA
2. San Francisco 49ers: RB/Saquon Barkley — Penn State
3. New York Giants: QB/Sam Darnold — USC
4.Tampa Bay Buccaneers: EDGE/Bradley Chubb — NC State
5.Indianapolis Colts: OT/Connor Williams — Texas
6. Cincinnati Bengals: OG/Quenton Nelson — Notre Dame
7. Cleveland Browns: S/Minkah Fitzpatrick — Alabama
8. Los Angeles Chargers: S/Derwin James — Florida State
9. Denver Broncos: OT/Mike McGlinchey — Notre Dame
10. Chicago Bears: WR/Calvin Ridley — Alabama
11. Baltimore Ravens: WR/Courtland Sutton — SMU
12. Oakland Raiders: EDGE/Arden Key — LSU
13. New York Jets: QB/Lamar Jackson — Louisville
14.Arizona Cardinals: QB/Josh Allen — Wyoming
15. Miami Dolphins: CB/Denzel Ward — Ohio State
16. Atlanta Falcons: DT/Maurice Hurst — Michigan
17. Green Bay Packers: EDGE/Clelin Ferrell — Clemson
18. Detroit Lions: EDGE/Harold Landry — Boston College
19. Washington Redskins: RB/Derrius Guice — LSU
20. Seattle Seahawks: OT/Martinas Rankin — Mississippi State
21. Dallas Cowboys: DT/Christian Wilkins — Clemson
22. Buffalo Bills: LB/Roquan Smith — Georgia
23. Jacksonville Jaguars: QB/Mason Rudolph — Oklahoma State
24.Carolina Panthers: OT/Chukwuma Okorafor — Western Michigan
25. Tennessee Titans: DE/Austin Bryant — Clemson
26. Buffalo Bills: DT/Da’Ron Payne — Alabama
27. Los Angeles Rams: CB/Tarvarus McFadden — Florida State
28. Minnesota Vikings: S/Ronnie Harrison — Alabama
29. Pittsburgh Steelers: LB/Malik Jefferson — Texas
30. New England Patriots: CB/Isaiah Oliver — Colorado
31. New Orleans Saints: QB/Baker Mayfield — Oklahoma
32. Philadelphia Eagles: LB/Rashaan Evans — Alabama
— Shocking news came out of Texas when cornerback Holton Hill was suspended for the remainder of the season for a violation of team rules. Hill was quickly ascending up draft boards and was currently second on the team in major defensive categories, with 39 tackles, two interceptions, and six breakups.
— The 2018 Reese’s Senior Bowl is right around the corner (January 27). Here is the early list of names that have confirmed that they have received an invitation:
- RB/D’Montre Wade — Murray State
- OG/Will Hernandez — UTEP
- OT/Timon Parris — Stony Brook
- OT/Brandon Parker — North Carolina A&T
- EDGE/Marcus Davenport — UTSA
- LB/Darius Leonard — South Carolina State
- CB/Michael Joseph — Dubuque
- CB/Siran Neal — Jacksonville State
- P/Johnny Townsend — Florida
Twitter Follower Q&A
Thank you to everyone who submitted their questions for this weeks scouting journal. Unfortunately I’m not able to get to all of them like I would like. If I was unable to answer your question this week, keep sending them weekly.
Here were the best three questions of this weeks bunch:
- I would go with option no. 2. I don’t believe that there are many elite prospects in this draft, but it is fairly deep at certain spots, most notably interior offensive/defensive line, receiver and safety. There is not a big separation between the talent at the top of this draft and what will be there in the middle rounds.
- The weakest position in this class without question is at linebacker. Roquan Smith (Georgia), Rashaan Evans (Alabama), Tremaine Edmunds (Virginia Tech), and Malik Jefferson (Texas) are probably the top players there now, but all possess many flaws in their own ways. If a team is looking for linebacker help, this is not a very good draft class for it.
- Great question! Depending on the position, I have categories based on the traits that I weigh the most heavily. That rubric then leads me to my final overall grading scale. From there, that determines my final grade on a prospect.
- Here’s an example of my grading system and Baker Mayfield’s grade at this point.
|94-89||Round 1 — High End Immediate Starter/Future Pro Bowler|
|88-83||Round 1 — Immediate Starter|
|82-77||Round 2 — Future Starter|
|76-71||Round 3 — Potential Future Starter/Developmental Project|
|70-65||Round 4 — Backup/Rotational Player|
|64-59||Round 5 — High End Career Backup|
|58-53||Round 6 — Low End Career Backup|
|52-47||Round 7 — Fringe Roster Player|
|46-41||Undrafted/Priority Free Agent|
|40-35||Undrafted/Potential Training Camp Invite|
|Baker Mayfield / Oklahoma / JR – (6-0, 220)|
|Accuracy||Arm Talent||Progressions||Delivery/Mechanics||Pocket Presence|
|Current Grade: 83|
|NFL Comparison: Russell Wilson|
Six-Pack of Final Thoughts
1. Rest in Peace Roy Halladay
In shocking and sad news, Roy Halladay, who is a pitcher many grew up admiring, unfortunately was involved in a single plane crash that resulted in his death. Thoughts and prayers are with the Halladay family, as he without a doubt left an everlasting legacy!
2. Happy 25th Birthday, Teddy Bridgewater!
One of my favorite players that I’ve ever had the pleasure of scouting was Minnesota Vikings QB Teddy Bridgewater. In the headlines this week for persevering and overcoming one of the worst knee injuries in sports history. A special happy birthday shoutout to Bridgewater and congratulations on overcoming extreme odds to once again play the game that you love.
3. Eric Bledsoe traded to the Milwaukee Bucks
Disgruntled with the Phoenix Suns organization for what seems like months now, Eric Bledsoe finally got his wish as he was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Greg Monroe and a first-round pick. A perfect situation for Bledsoe as he gets to continue his growth under the tutelage of head coach Jason Kidd and joins an exciting young core of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, Thon Maker, and 2017 rookie of the year Malcolm Brogdon.
4. “The Japanese Babe Ruth”
MLB free agency is always one of the most highly debated topics in sports. Mainly because insane amounts of money are rewarded to plays. The beauty of MLB contracts is that they are fully guaranteed. This off-season, there’s a big fish in the waters though. The waters are foreign and his name may not be popular now, but that will be far from the case if Japanese sensation Shohei Otani is enabled to be listed for bidding.
Otani is a 100-plus mph pitcher and also a fantastic hitter. Yes, you read that correctly. Otani can play multiple positions and step onto the mound and be dominant. MLB teams are salivating over the possibility of adding Otani to their pitching rotation or hitting lineup.
5. College Football Playoff Standings
Always contrversial and multiple fanbases disagreeing with the weekly outcome, no one really knows the exact formula of what goes into the decision for the top-4 teams in the college football playoff standings.
Here’s the top-4 to this point:
- Georgia (9-0)
- Alabama (9-0)
- Notre Dame (8-1)
- Clemson (8-1)