Ceiling: Drew Brees
When Baker Mayfield the football player comes up in discussion, perhaps the first negative attribute of his that is mentioned is his height.
Measured at 6’ 0⅝” at the Combine, Mayfield is looking to join a fray of outliers that have found significant success as an NFL quarterback with a lack of size. 28 quarterbacks have won 50+ games this century, and only three of them are listed at 6’0 or shorter: Michael Vick, Drew Brees, and Russell Wilson.
Vick found success with athleticism that doesn’t need to be described. Mayfield, who posted below-50th percentile marks in both the vertical jump and 40-yard dash, is not going to win in the NFL by beating defenders in the open field with sheer athleticism.
Russell Wilson is not the athlete that Vick is, but is one of the most athletic quarterbacks to play the game in his own right. While Wilson does share a lot of similar traits to Mayfield, excelling as an improviser and playmaker outside of the pocket, Wilson has definitely profited off of his plus athleticism - once again, not something that Mayfield will be able to hang his hat on.
Thus, the most logical comparison for Mayfield of the three “short” quarterbacks to find success has to be Brees. Mayfield (6’ 0⅝”, 215, 4.84 40) and Brees (6’0, 213, 4.83 40) are almost identical in size and speed. This comparison is not to say Mayfield will find the success level of Brees, the third leading passer in NFL history, but the ways in which Mayfield will work to find success are similar.
Brees has made his Hall of Fame career out of a similar backyard style to Mayfield, feeling free to roam outside of the pocket and tossing accurate passes from every playform imaginable - all while polishing his pocket game. Mayfield showcased the accuracy, escape, and quick reaction skills down after down at Oklahoma, but some have questioned his pocket game as he took a huge portion of snaps out of the shotgun and often threw from clean pressure. Those are legit concerns, but as many (like PFF in this interesting breakdown) have noted, Mayfield was up to the task when forced to throw in those situations, even if they were more rare for him compared to other prospects.
While Brees hasn’t had the off-field issues that plague Mayfield, he is known for an intense leadership style that Mayfield shares. If Baker can stay out of trouble and his accuracy proves transferable to an NFL offense, he has the pure quarterbacking ability as a thrower and game manager to overcome his height in the same way Brees has to become a successful franchise quarterback that a locker room will rally around.
Floor: Johnny Manziel
I don’t mean to compare Mayfield’s off the field issues to Manziel’s. Manziel’s concerns were far more questionable than Mayfield’s, including multiple arrests of more severity than Mayfield’s one arrest as well as a few other allegations and suspensions. Aside from his one minor incident, Mayfield’s “concerns” include an obscene gesture that the cameras just so happened to catch, planting a flag in celebration, and boasting with overconfidence to the media. His bravado needs to be tempered to an extent, but no, Mayfield’s concerns off the field are nowhere near where Manziel’s were.
However, I choose Manziel as my floor for Mayfield simply because both the flaws that brought him down in the NFL and the traits that made him a first round pick are very reminiscent of Mayfield. If Baker flops, his story will likely look similar.
Manziel was a brash, confident young player with legit behavior concerns. He didn’t solve those in the NFL, earning a suspension, benchings, and embroiling himself in plenty more controversies of different varieties that hindered his development and quickly fractured the patience his coaches had in him.
Like Mayfield, Johnny Football entered the NFL as a short, Heisman-winning Big 12 quarterback with otherworldly numbers. Mayfield owns the second highest passer rating in NCAA history, Manziel, the 9th highest (Bryce Petty and Tim Tebow also reside in the top ten group that is without a Pro Bowl quarterback). Manziel fell victim to all of the trends that have constantly prevented quarterbacking success - the Big 12, a lack of height, the Heisman, inflated numbers, and maturity issues. While Baker is without a doubt a better prospect than Manziel both as a football player, with his advantages in field-reading ability and pure accuracy, and as a person, with a much less spotty track record, he faces a nearly identical set of question marks that have consumed the careers of many hyped college passers.
If Mayfield is truly as bombastic as some contend, and he proves to be as much of a product of the system as the many Big 12 failures before him, he could easily flame out quickly.
Baker Mayfield’s career?
This poll is closed
No-Brainer Hall of Famer (Brady/Rodgers)
Elite Perennial Pro Bowler (Wilson/Ryan)
Notch Below Elite, Occasional MVP Candidate (Rivers/Newton)
Good/Solid Longterm Starter (A. Smith/E. Manning)
Solid Spot Starter (Bradford/Taylor)
Fizzles out during/after rookie contract (Sanchez/RG3/Manziel)