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After a record-setting rookie season in 2018, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield had what’s known in the football biz as a “sophomore slump” last season and now the oddsmakers are making it possible on how well the Oklahoma kid will do in 2020.
There are plenty of reasons Mayfield had a lousy 2019 – poor protection, a total lack of reps with his playmakers, and a dearth of experienced coaching – but it comes down to making better decisions when the pressure is on.
Anyone who has followed Baker Mayfield’s football career knows he is in the exact type of situation that thoroughly inspires him to greatness, so we take a look at the predictions and odds of how he will perform overall for the Browns during the 2020 regular season.
When it comes to betting on NFL quarterback futures, the two main prop bets are typically based on total passing yards and total passing touchdowns, with both stats being decent indicators of how well a QB is performing.
When it comes to Baker Mayfield, however, these bets can be tricky, since he performed so below his expectations last season that it might be tempting to believe that he is on a downward spiral.
But due to the mystery that is the Cleveland Browns, the 2020 season could go either way for Mayfield, making these two bets all the more exciting.
NOTE: Exactly 16 Regular Season games must be played by the Browns for these bets to stand unless an outcome has already been decided and no further play could produce a different outcome
|Sportsbook||Over 3875.5||Under 3875.5|
Mayfield almost would have made the over of this bet a winner during his rookie season (3,725 yards) and came even closer during his horrible sophomore season (3,827 yards) so it stands to reason that with an improved line and better coaching he could throw for enough yards in 2020 to easily beat the under here.
Of course, an injury could change all that, but if Mayfield could survive last season with almost zero blindside help, imagine how well he will actually thrive with more than half a second to make his decisions in the pocket.
Don’t forget that not only does Mayfield have Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry to throw to now, he also has tight ends Austin Hooper and David Njoku and running backs Kareem Hunt and Dontrell Hilliard as targets, so with the right game planning and play calling, he could easily top 4,000 passing yards this season.
|Sportsbook||Over 23.5||Under 23.5|
The over on this bet seems like a sure thing, because for Mayfield to not throw at least 24 touchdowns in 2020, he would either have to get injured and end his season prematurely or the Browns run game would have to be totally dominating that stat.
Given the Browns beefed up O-line and the extra targets that have been added, expect Mayfield to look nothing like he did last season when he was scrambling for his life on just about every offensive down.
Mayfield threw for 22 touchdowns last year during the worst season of his football career, so for him to connect for a score at least 24 times with the amount of receiving talent he now has seems like the safest bet in town.
The Browns could exercise the fifth-year option on his contract in 2022, and if they do, Mayfield would then become an undrafted free agent before the following season in 2023.
Baker Reagan Mayfield is the Texas-born 25-year-old NFL quarterback who became a Heisman Trophy winner while playing football for Oklahoma as a walk-on and who now plays under center for the ever-trying Cleveland Browns.
Mayfield’s parents, James and Gina, struggled financially when Baker was in high school, forcing the family to sell their home and move from one rental home to another, though this didn’t prevent him from attending the live football games of his favorite college team, Oklahoma.
As a young quarterback, Mayfield led his high school team to a State Championship with excellent numbers, posting 6,255 total passing yards, 67 touchdowns with only eight interceptions in the time he played at Lake Travis High.
Mayfield’s college football experience was a unique one that started with him as the first true freshman walk-on at Texas Tech to start a season opener at the quarterback position, with Mayfield eventually earning the Big 12 Conference Freshman Offensive Player of the Year for the 2013 season.
Due to a so-called “miscommunication” with the Texas Tech coaching staff (one that involved scholarship issues and Baker NOT being guaranteed the starting QB role for the next season), Mayfield transferred to the University of Oklahoma.
As a walk-on at Oklahoma, Mayfield had to sit for a year, but he then earned the starting quarterback role and began a three-year run that culminated with a third Big-12 Championship and a shelf full of trophies, making him one of the hottest young quarterbacks to enter the 2017 NFL Draft.
The “Baker Mayfield Rule” was created after Mayfield appealed the ruling that he wasn’t eligible to play for his first year at Oklahoma, stating that because he was a walk-on he should not be subjected to the rules typically applied to recruited scholarship players.
After much debate and back-and-forth between the two schools, it was finally decided that walk-on players without a written scholarship offer from the school they are transferring from would now be allowed to transfer within the conference without losing a season of eligibility.
Afterward, that became known as the “Baker Mayfield Rule” and though Mayfield never benefitted from it, the rule named for him will help every new player that encounters that same situation from now on.
Mayfield was an exceptional college football quarterback – after his senior season at Oklahoma, he won the Heisman Trophy, the Maxwell Award, the Walter Camp Award, the AP Player of the Year and was a First-team All-American.
Statistically, over four seasons of playing (including his one year at Texas Tech), Mayfield completed 1,026-of-1,497 for a completion percentage of 68.5 and 14,607 total yards with 131 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions.
When Mayfield declared himself eligible for the 2017 NFL Draft, he joined a talented class of young quarterbacks, including USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Wyoming’s Josh Allen, and Louisville’s Lamar Jackson.
When the Cleveland Browns went 0-16 during the 2017 season and earned the first overall selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, they selected Mayfield and a lot of experts and fans questioned whether he deserved that honor based on several factors:
Size: Nobody questioned the power and accuracy of his throwing arm, but at barely 6’1”, Mayfield was considered too short to be an elite NFL quarterback.
Attitude: Mayfield, the college player who grabbed his crotch and mouthed swear words to an opposing team and later planted an Oklahoma flag in the middle of the OSU horseshoe after his team won, was considered too cocky and selfish to be an NFL quarterback.
Character: Mayfield’s character was questioned, especially after videos were made public of him drunkenly running from the police in a panic, though he was eventually found innocent of breaking any laws in that incident.
Draft Class: Mayfield was part of a quarterback rich draft class, and though he was considered part of the upper echelon at quarterback, USC’s tall and dominant Sam Darnold was the obvious pick for the Browns, until he wasn’t.
That depends on which of his two seasons you look at because one was incredible and the other was considered a slump.
In his 2018 rookie season, Mayfield led the Browns to their first win since the end of the 2016 season while eventually setting the NFL record for most passing touchdowns by a rookie quarterback with 27, ending with a passer rating of 93.7 despite not starting until the fourth week.
Compare that to last season, when Mayfield threw almost as many interceptions (21) as he did touchdowns (22) and led his struggling team to a 6-10 record despite having one of the most talented rosters in the league.
An entire article could be dedicated to answering this question, but there were two main reasons for Baker Mayfield’s 2019 sophomore slump – poor protection and lousy game planning.
The Browns’ offensive line could not protect Mayfield, and during the regular season he was sacked 40 times, and worse than that, he was constantly having to scramble since his blindside protection was almost nonexistent.
First-time-ever head coach Freddie Kitchens also had a lot to do with Mayfield’s second-year blues, by calling unpracticed plays that put Baker in scrambling danger and by not figuring out how to properly balance the team’s excellent rushing attack with Mayfield’s passing and the result was offensive chaos and ineffectiveness (with ten losses) that entire season.
The short answer is yes – in his two NFL seasons, Mayfield has thrown 35 total interceptions compared to 49 total touchdown passes.
The longer answer involves the lack of coaching and development that Mayfield endured as a second-year player, and along with a porous front line, it caused him to have to panic and scramble and make heroic plays all too often.
And when throws are forced when receivers and QBs aren’t of the same mindset due to a lack of reps, the result is typically interceptions, and many gunslingers like Mayfield start out that way until they learn how to read defenses better.
Some Mayfield haters have accused Mayfield of “letting himself go,” especially after this photo was released earlier this year on Twitter:
According to Mayfield’s reps, he gained weight to be able to take the brutal hits a quarterback receives in the NFL.
It is more the lack of muscle tone and tan that has his doubters laughing, something that Mayfield vowed to shift this offseason, as evidenced by this Tweeted photo of his lockdown workout:
The Browns’ new general manager, Andrew Berry, used free agency this offseason to sign Case Keenum, a talented quarterback who formerly played (and did well) for the Minnesota Vikings, the team that used to employ Cleveland’s new head coach Kevin Stefanski.
So that has caused many to speculate that there will be a training camp competition for the starting quarterback role in Cleveland, but that’s just not true, and Keenum seems well aware of this.
When asked about the issue, he was quoted as saying, “First and foremost, I know my role coming in. That’s another great positive for me. I’m going to be ready to play. I feel like I’ve played at a high level for the last three years.”
No, absolutely not, because since high school, Mayfield has and always will see himself as a starter.
The only thing that would motivate him more than being demoted to a backup is the fact that this question is even being asked.
Mayfield vowed to come to Cleveland and change the losing culture to that of a winner, and obviously, he cannot do that from the sidelines while someone else is taking the snaps.
The Browns’ front office may be new, but they showed some excellent insight and made veteran moves this offseason, using both free agency and the NFL Draft to fill the gaping roster holes in Cleveland.
The first goal was to give Mayfield better protection, and the Browns did that by signing free agent right tackle Jack Conklin, a talented lineman that happened to come available at the right time, then by using their first pick in the draft (10th overall) to snag arguably one of the best tackles in that class, Jedrick Wills Jr., who seems talented enough to make the switch to left tackle.
They also gave Mayfield a few more gifted targets to throw at, including playmaking free-agent tight end Austin Hooper and rookie wide receiver Donovan Peoples-Jones, as well as re-signing flashy receiver Rashaad “Hollywood” Higgins to a one-year deal.
But truly the best thing the Browns did for Mayfield in 2020 was to give him a new head coach (Stefanski) and offensive coordinator (Alex Van Pelt) who will hopefully utilize a player like Baker and the talent that surrounds him on offense far better than was done last year.
With a higher level of protection and simpler game plans that better balance the run game with his passing attack, Mayfield should be able to get back to firing rockets from the pocket to open receivers who can do the heavy lifting from there.
Many experts also blame the Browns’ horrible 2019 on the fact that they were being led by a rookie head coach (Freddie Kitchens) that seemed clueless about football strategy at times and who failed to properly utilize his playmakers, so having a coaching staff that can basically do the opposite of that should also help Mayfield perform to the level of his abilities.
But the main reason Mayfield should have an amazing 2020 season is that he is the type of player that gets more fired up the more you doubt him, and it is obvious by how quiet he has been on social media that he plans to let the football do his talking for now on.
Baker Mayfield is on the third year of his rookie contract, a deal worth $32.7 million with a $21.8 million signing bonus and all of it guaranteed.
Mayfield will make $8.17 million to play football in 2020 and 2021, his average over the four years of the deal.
Mike Lukas is a retired standup comedian turned freelance writer now living in Dallas, Texas, originally from Cleveland, Ohio. His love for the game of football and all things Cleveland Browns turned Mike into a pro blogger years ago. Now Mike enjoys writing about all thirty-two NFL teams, hoping to help football gamblers gain a slight edge in their pursuit of the perfect wager. Email: [email protected]More info on Mike Lukas
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