INDIANAPOLIS — A Baker Mayfield news conference always attracts a crowd, whether it’s following an Oklahoma football game or at the NFL combine.
The only difference now is who is asking the questions. More than 100 NFL reporters gathered around Mayfield’s podium for the quarterback’s 15-minute session. When the cameras were turned on and the questions were fired at Mayfield in rapid succession, he didn’t disappoint.
One wouldn’t expect the reigning Heisman Trophy winner who had to bet on himself as a walk-on to aw shucks his way through an interview. No, Mayfield told the world he’s the best quarterback in the draft and is ready for any challenge that comes his way.
“I can handle the spotlight; I think I’d do just fine,” Mayfield said Friday. “I think under pressure is something I thrive on.”
So does he believe he’s the best quarterback entering the draft?
“Absolutely,” he said, “and if you don’t have that mindset then something’s wrong.”
Why wouldn’t Mayfield feel that way? Mayfield threw for 4,627 yards at a 70.5 completion clip last season with 43 touchdowns and only 6 interceptions. He strolled to the Heisman Trophy and led the Sooners to the College Football Playoff.
Mayfield hardly was a one-year wonder. As a junior, he completed 70.9 percent of his passes for 3,965 yards, 40 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. That follows a sophomore year where he passed for 3,700 yards, 36 TDs and 7 INTs.
— PFF Draft (@PFF_College) March 1, 2018
Mayfield has enough arm strength to hit spots all over the field. But to him, his best qualities are getting the ball to receivers and elevating a team’s level of play.
“What makes me the best option? Accuracy, I can make any throw,” Mayfield said. “Winning, that’s the most important. But the way I’ve been able to get my guys around me to play, not just the offensive players around me, the other 10 guys, but defensive guys, special teams, the energy I bring, the passion I bring, it’s infectious.
“So you can ask anybody on that Oklahoma staff, that’s what I bring to the table and it helps us out.’’
Mayfield’s Oklahoma production is eye-popping but the NFL selection process is about checking physical boxes. He stands 6-foot-1, which is a few inches shorter than ideal. He weighs 220 pounds, but some scouts question whether he could absorb the pounding. Many even question his hand size, which measured to 9.25 inches and was less than the 10-inch optimum for northern climates.
Additionally, Mayfield has to explain some of his unfortunate incidents. He pleaded guilty to public intoxication last spring and was caught displaying an obscene gesture against Kansas last fall. Those situations have led to comparisons with former Texas A&M quarterback and notorious partier Johnny Manziel.
“The world of 6-1-and-under quarterbacks is a small one, to start with,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. “When you compound that with some off-the-field issues and extend the athletic play on the field, there are going to be comparisons, whether he wants to distance himself or not.
“He’s going to have to prove in the meetings that he is a different guy than Johnny Manziel off the field, especially; that he has the character where he’s going to be the first guy in, the last to leave.”
Mayfield doesn’t cringe with any Manziel comparisons, primarily because Manziel also was an electric college football player with his own Heisman Trophy.
“People forget he was a talented football player — first things first — before he got caught up in whatever it was,” Mayfield said. “Talented football player. But it when it comes to that comparison … we’re two completely different people. He’s said it, I’ve said it. When it comes down to it, I’ll do anything to play this game and I’ll do everything to keep playing it.”
No matter which team drafts Mayfield, it won’t have a complacent player on the bench. As he’s shown throughout his career at Oklahoma, Mayfield will compete anywhere at any time.
“Whatever team I go to, I’m not going to settle for a backup job,” Mayfield said. “I’ve never been like that and I never will, I’m going to push that person in front of me. What it comes down [to] is the best man’s going to win. I know that, but everybody has a role on the team and if you’re not pushing those guys around you to be better, you’re not doing it right.”