MOBILE, Ala.—The intense scrutiny of Baker Mayfield’s path to the NFL Draft ramped up today as he took reps at Senior Bowl practice with Hall of Famer John Elway studying him from 10 feet away.
Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma, arrived in Mobile just in time to join the North team for a practice led by coach Vance Joseph and the Broncos staff. Large delegations from every NFL team were in attendance, including the Dolphins. They want to ascertain whether he’s someone they can trust on and off the field, and he’s intent on easing their minds this week.
“Everybody wants to portray me as the bad boy and the Johnny Manziel stuff, but no, I love the game of football,” Mayfield said in a brief media swarm after practice. “There’s no doubt about that. I’m an emotional player. I’ll do everything it takes to win.
“I love being around my teammates and I love leading and having responsibility… I came down here to play the game and show them that I love playing it.”
Miami coach Adam Gase didn’t attend the Senior Bowl last year, but with quarterback as a possibility with the No. 11 pick, he was on hand to see Mayfield and Wyoming’s Josh Allen, among others.
The daily practices might be the extent of Mayfield’s work. He declined to say whether he will play in Saturday’s game.
He’s a bit behind in terms learning this week’s playbook and meeting with teams because he did not report Sunday like the rest of the Senior Bowl players. Mayfield said he remained home in Texas to be with his ailing mother.
“Family first, always,” he said. “Doesn’t matter what the situation is. I would never put myself before my mom… It wasn’t about delaying measuring in. I’ll measure in tomorrow if it’s that big of a deal. I don’t care. Like I said, family first.”
Both of the top quarterbacks here have expressed interest in playing for the Dolphins—perhaps too much so in Mayfield’s case. He caused a national stir by posting on social media “#GetMeToMiami” in response to Dolphins wide receiver Kenny Stills, who also played at Oklahoma.
Mayfield reiterated that his hashtag was more playful than anything else and said he’ll be happy to play for whatever team drafts him.
There is a unique concern with Miami, though, about how he’ll handle the allure of the nightlife. He dismissed that question with a simple, “I’ll be alright.”
Few players here, especially ones of his stature, feel compelled to convince NFL executives and coaches that they’re serious about football, but Mayfield is a unique case.
The question seems to stem mostly from his antics and the perception that he doesn’t carry himself the way polished company men like Tom Brady and Russell Wilson do. He taunts and celebrates, and a good portion of it veers into vulgarity. It’s hard to imagine many NFL teams citing that alone as a reason not to draft him.
Mayfield’s only major transgression was an arrest last February when he was arrested for public intoxication and resisting arrest, as well as a few other things, and ultimately pleaded guilty to three charges as part of a deal with the prosecution. He’ll have to explain his decision making that night in detail when he meets with NFL teams.
Denver, which requested that the Senior Bowl administration put Mayfield on its team, will likely get the most thorough evaluation of his play and personality this week.
“To see what I’m all about, see how I react to certain things, maybe see if I can handle the pressure and stuff like that,” Mayfield said. “But it’s an honor. If John Elway asks you to be on his team, you don’t say no.”
On the field, the reasons he’s currently projected as a top-15 pick rather than going in the top five are his size and the fact that he played mostly out of the shotgun at Oklahoma.
Whenever Mayfield gets his official measurements, whether it be here or at next month’s scouting combine, he’ll likely check in somewhere close to the 6-foot-1, 220 pounds he was listed at on Oklahoma’s roster. That’s below average for NFL starters, though Wilson (5-foot-11), Drew Brees (6-foot) and Tyrod Taylor (6-foot-1) have all proven more than proficient.
“Good players figure it out,” Joseph said. “I wouldn’t be concerned about that.”
What certainly merits concern, though, is Mayfield’s lack of experience working under center. Operating mainly out of the shotgun, he piled up a spectacular 330.5 yards per game, completed 70.5 percent of his passes and threw for 43 touchdowns against six touchdowns, but he knows that’s not the norm for most NFL offenses.
Mayfield listed that as one of his primary goals for the week, and he can turn the conversation around him toward on-field topics like that as soon as he quells the character questions.
“Football is everything,” he said. “It’s led me to be a better man. It’s challenged me. It’s made me face adversity and learn what I’m all about. It’s brought me some of my best friends. It’s brought my family closer together. There’s a lot of things that have stemmed from the game of football, but it’s more than just a game.”
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