The Cleveland Browns raised a lot of eyebrows, when they decided to take Baker Mayfield with the first overall pick in the recent NFL Draft. After all, it was USC quarterback Sam Darnold who made most of the noise during the offseason. It was often stated by media outlets and fans that Darnold possessed the most NFL-ready talent, and that he should be the top pick. Others felt that Josh Allen should be taken with the top pick, due to his cannon arm and athletic ability.
But when it came time for the Browns to make their pick, they shocked everyone when they announced that Mayfield is their guy. The ensued backlash that the Browns had squandered another top pick gained steam quickly. The general thought was the Mayfield had too many questions marks, and that he would essentially be a newer version of the failed johnny Manziel experiment.
Fast forward to Week 5 of the 2018 NFL season, and the Browns are now winners of two games so far this season. While that may not appear to be much, this is a team that hadn’t won on a Sunday (at all!) since December of 2016. The Browns have played three home games so far this year. They tied the season opener against the division rival Pittsburgh Steelers, although it was Tyrod Taylor who led the team to that result. But Mayfield led the Browns to their first victory in almost two years, when Cleveland took down Darnold and the New York Jets in a Week 3 home clash. While they did lose their Week 4 matchup at Oakland, it was an incredible effort from Mayfield, who put his team in a position to win that game, only to come up just short as they lost by a final score of 45-42.
Week 5 showed us that Mayfield and the new-look Browns are no fluke. They are here to stay, and they are putting up a fight regardless of opponent. Cleveland took down the tough Baltimore Ravens, who have one of the most vaunted defenses in the NFL. In a stingy affair that went to overtime tied 9-9, Mayfield gave his team several chances to come out on top. He drove the team down the field at the end of regulation, setting up what would have been a game-winning 55-yard field goal. But when kicker Greg Joseph missed the attempt, the game went into the extra period.
In overtime, Mayfield engineered another opportunity for the Browns to win, only to come up short on a fourth-down attempt. And finally, backed up at their own five-yard line, the Browns looked to their stud rookie signal-caller one last time, hoping he could pull them out of the hole, and to claim a rare victory against a division opponent. Mayfield rose to the challenge, and drove his team down the field. Despite facing immense pressure from the Ravens defense throughout this game (he was sacked five times), Mayfield didn’t waver. This time, he would not be denied. He took control of the drive, and led his team down the field, putting them in position to kick the game-winning field goal once again. Joseph had a much easier try this time, and he put the ball through the uprights on this last-second 37-yard field goal attempt.
The entire stadium erupted in joy. The city of Cleveland is simply not accustomed to counting victories. But with Mayfield at the helm, maybe they need to get used to it.
Through just five weeks of the young NFL season, Mayfield is certainly making the Browns look extremely smart for passing on all the other quarterbacks in this draft class. They took a chance on Mayfield, who had some off-field issues prior to entering the league (which also led to Manziel comparisons). But if he stays out of trouble, and continues to lead his team to victories like this, he could have a very bright future in this league. Hopefully, he can continue to build on this performance, and continue to guide this team to more victories in the near future.