Will Mayfield change minds of Browns fans?


By Jim Naveau - jnaveau@limanews.com



Take a deep breath, Browns fans. Now take another one.

Baker Mayfield was the No. 1 overall draft pick by your team in the NFL draft Thursday night and there is no changing that. The NFL has an ultra-strict no returns and no exchanges policy about these things.

A poll on the Cleveland.com website on Friday showed 59 percent of the Browns fans who responded disagreed with choosing Mayfield with the first pick. Twenty-one percent agreed with it and the other 20 percent said they’d have to wait and see before giving their opinion.

The comments on social media appeared to be trending even more negative on the Mayfield pick than the poll showed.

From the reaction, you’d think Mayfield rode Johnny Manziel’s inflatable swan in Oklahoma’s homecoming parade last fall.

Actually, though that never happened, much of the distaste for the pick comes from comparisons with the Browns drafting Manziel in the first round in 2014 and his swift flameout on and off the field that had him out of the NFL two years later.

Like Manziel, Mayfield is just over six feet tall. Like Manziel, he is brash and has had a few brushes with controversy, including a flag plant at midfield after he led Oklahoma to a 31-16 win over Ohio State last season, an action many OSU fans don’t want to forget.

Some people are already calling him Manziel 2.0. Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Bill Livingston tweeted, “Those who do not learn from their mistakes are doomed to be Browns.”

Is Mayfield a risky pick? He could be. Is he as risky a pick as Manziel was? Probably not. Is he a Manziel clone? Definitely not.

If someone had said before the draft that the Browns could get a quarterback who threw for 4,340 yards and 41 touchdowns with only five interceptions last season without a name attached to those numbers, most people would have said go for it. Those were Mayfield’s numbers at Oklahoma last season.

He threw 117 touchdown passes with 20 interceptions in three years as a starter at Oklahoma. USC’s Josh Darnold, the quarterback many draft analysts and Browns fans rated the highest, had 59 touchdown passes and 22 interceptions in two seasons as a starter.

Mayfield had 48 more career touchdown passes than the next-highest total by any of the other four quarterbacks taken in the first round, 69 by Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, and had fewer interceptions than any of them.

He is a better football player than Manziel, takes the game much more seriously and has fewer off the field issues.

If anything was oversold, it was the overall quality of this year’s quarterback draft class, not Mayfield. And that might explain some of the negative reaction to him in the Browns fan base.

The conventional wisdom going into the draft was that Darnold, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, UCLA’s Josh Rosen and the last two Heisman Trophy winners, Mayfield and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson, made 2018 an exceptionally strong year for quarterbacks in the draft.

But while there was depth, this year’s group of quarterbacks did not include a can’t miss player like John Elway, Peyton Manning or Ben Roethlisberger.

All those years of losing, all those years of terrible draft day decisions made Browns fans begin to believe – or at least hope – this year’s draft would make up for some of that.

They were looking for a rescuer and maybe there was none on this year’s draft board. Time will tell if Mayfield changes their minds.

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By Jim Naveau

jnaveau@limanews.com

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414 or on Twitter at @Lima_Naveau.

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