The NFL Scouting Combine is an important event for college football prospects. Athleticism matters in athletics, and athletic measurables are a critical component of an advanced stats, metrics, and analytics player profile. They can showcase their athletic abilities and try to gain entry into the pantheon of the sport, the NFL. Succeed, like John Ross did last year in setting the combine record for the 40-yard dash, and you may find your draft stock soaring all the way to a top-10 pick. Fail in the agility drills, like Dalvin Cook, and you may go from a first-round lock to a second-round selection.
However, the combine doesn’t matter for everyone. At least it shouldn’t. Some guys have demonstrated their talents on the football field to the extent that they shouldn’t need to prove themselves at the combine. Last year, Corey Davis was still a top-5 overall pick even though he couldn’t participate in the combine due to an ankle injury. The combine didn’t matter for Davis.
Many current NFL players were not even invited to the combine. Undrafted talents such as Doug Baldwin, Malcolm Butler, and Julian Edelman were never even given the opportunity to showcase their skills. The combine didn’t matter for them, and the combine doesn’t matter for Baker Mayfield, because what Baker Mayfield has done in his college career has proved, beyond any doubt, that he deserves to be the overall QB1 in this draft. In both rookie fantasy drafts and in the real NFL Draft. Who cares what his vertical jump is? The only time Mayfield will be jumping straight up in the air in the NFL is after celebrating a touchdown pass.
Baker Mayfield is not only the best quarterback prospect in this class, he is the best quarterback prospect ever.
Marcus Mariota Parallel
Looking back, Marcus Mariota was an excellent prospect. He checked every box: production as measured by both college QBR and college YPA, success at a young age, impressive intelligence as measured by the Wonderlic Test, and tremendous athleticism for a quarterback to boot. Mariota posted a 90.9 college QBR, 10.0 college YPA, 18.9 Breakout Age, and 115.4 SPARQ-x score. All of those were at least 95th-percentile at the quarterback position! No wonder the Podfather predicts he will bounce back next season, surpassing even DeShaun Watson.
Now we know even before the combine that Mayfield won’t have Mariota’s size, and probably not his raw athleticism either. We also aren’t certain about his throw velocity or Wonderlic Test score, but let’s focus on what matters most: age-adjusted production. It really doesn’t matter if Mayfield stands 6-0 or 6-3. It doesn’t matter if he’s 210 pounds or 220 pounds. Being 5-11 204 pounds sure doesn’t seem to be holding back Russell Wilson. Do you think anyone will doubt Drew Brees’s Hall of Fame legitimacy because he stands 6-1 instead of 6-2 like Aaron Rodgers? Absolutely not!
Let’s start with College QBR, which measures the best Total QBR posted in any season in his college career. Mayfield won the Heisman Award this season for a reason, as he led the FBS with a 92.6 QBR this season. Incidentally, he lead the FBS in QBR in 2016 as well with a 91.8 mark. For comparison, Mariota was at 91.3 in his Heisman winning year.
Using PlayerProfiler’s Data Analysis tool, we know that only two quarterbacks posted a better QBR in their best college season: Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck. This would likely put Mayfield in the 99th-percentile for this metric. In fact, Mayfield’s second-best season, 2016, would still rank behind only Wilson and Luck in college QBR.
College YPA is where Mayfield starts to break the scales. College yards per attempt, as the name suggests, measures the quarterback’s yards per attempt in his best season. Russell Wilson‘s 10.3 college YPA is the highest in the PlayerProfiler database, and Mariota’s 10.0 college YPA is No. 4 among current NFL quarterbacks. No quarterback on PlayerProfiler has reached a 10.5 college YPA until Mayfield. He did it… twice.
In 2016, Mayfield’s yards per attempt was 11.1, and in 2017 it was 11.5. Again, Wilson sits atop our database at 10.3. Mayfield topped the leader of our database by more than a full yard per attempt.
Breakout Age is one of PlayerProfiler’s most important metrics, because it puts everything else into context. A late Breakout Age indicates that the production came largely because of playing against younger, inexperienced competition. The same principle applies in baseball, a 20 year-old playing well in Triple-A shows a lot more promise than a 24 year-old in Triple A with comparable stats. Breakout Age measures the player’s age when a quarterback first posted a College QBR of 50 or above. We know Mayfield’s 2016 and 2017 QBR puts him in rarified company with Russell Wilson and Andrew Luck, but those were posted in his age 21 and age 22 seasons. Still incredibly impressive, of course, but context is needed.
Well, Mayfield actually posted a QBR of 56.8 in his 2013 season, back when he played at Texas Tech. He parlayed his excellent play into a transfer to Oklahoma, where he became the starter beginning in 2015. Mayfield was just 18 years old in 2013. Think of what you were doing when you were 18, when the most important thing on your mind was figuring out how to ask a girl to prom. Meanwhile, Mayfield was succeeding at playing the toughest position in sports against players with far more experience than him. Since Mayfield was born in April, that puts his Breakout Age right around 18.4 or 18.5. That’s in the top-3 of our database, and puts him in the 100th-percentile. For comparison, Mariota broke out at the age of 18.9, which was good for a 96th-percentile Breakout Age.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper currently has Josh Allen going No. 1 overall to the Browns, with Mayfield sliding all the way to No. 13 to the Redskins. Why Josh Allen, who has everything you would want from a quarterback except the ability to efficiently pass the football, would go first overall makes no sense to me. Why the Redskins would let a franchise quarterback in Kirk Cousins walk instead of keeping him and using their premium draft capital to build a competent team around him makes, if possible, even less sense.
The “experts” will provide an entire laundry list of reasons as to why Mayfield isn’t the best quarterback prospect in this class, if not ever. They’ll say he’s not tall enough, ignoring that future Hall of Famer Drew Brees is 6-0. They’ll say he’s too light, and won’t be able to withstand hits from defensive linemen while pretending that Russell Wilson, who has the second highest passer rating of all time, doesn’t weight 204 pounds. They’ll say he has character concerns, but that didn’t stop Jameis Winston from being selected first overall.
The fact of the matter is that teams have this image in their head of what an NFL quarterback should look like. Josh Allen perfectly meets that prototype, standing 6-5 at 234 pounds. Scouts love his strong arm, but all the physical tools shouldn’t matter when you throw just 16 touchdowns in your final season while playing in the Mountain West Conference.
Ignore the narrative. The advanced metrics indicate that Mayfield is a generational quarterback prospect, and he should easily be your No. 1 quarterback in rookie drafts.