Senior Bowl: Baker Mayfield brings swagger to North practice

Oklahoma Sooners quarterback Baker Mayfield looks on against the Georgia Bulldogs during the 2018 Rose Bowl game on January 1 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. Photo by Juan Ocampo/UPI | License Photo

By Rob Rang, – UPI

MOBILE, Ala. — Unlike the rest of the players auditioning for hundreds of NFL scouts and coaches at the Senior Bowl, Baker Mayfield did not arrive over the weekend or participate in Tuesday’s weigh-ins. Once the reigning Heisman Trophy winner did arrive, however, he quickly put to rest doubts about his ability to make the jump from the Big 12 to the NFL, delivering a sparkling debut similar to the one Carson Wentz enjoyed two years ago at Ladd-Peebles Stadium.

Taking snaps from under center as well as from the shotgun, and lining up opposite bigger, more prototypical quarterbacks like Wyoming’s rocket-armed 6-foot-5, 237-pound Josh Allen and Washington State’s Luke Falk, the Pac-12’s all-time leading passer, Mayfield stole the spotlight, leaving no doubt that he was the top signal-caller in this year’s Senior Bowl.

Mayfield delivered strikes to all levels of the field, zipping underneath passes to running backs and showing perfect trajectory on what would have been long touchdowns (despite tight coverage) to Boise State wide receiver Cedrick Wilson and Central Michigan tight end Tyler Conklin. Of course, no one was keeping score in the early scrimmages and one-on-one practices — except for maybe the scouts in the stands, which included key decision-makers for the Cleveland Browns (including new general manager John Dorsey), New York Giants (including general manager Dave Gettleman and new head coach Pat Shurmur) and, of course, Broncos GM and Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway, owners of the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 5 overall picks in the 2018 draft and all thought to be considering taking a quarterback with their first selection.

Broncos head coach Vance Joseph did not sound overly concerned about Mayfield’s below-average height.

“I think that’s fine,” Joseph said via The Denver Post when asked about Mayfield’s height. “You watch Drew Brees play, he’s figured it out. He’s a very successful quarterback. Guys figure it out. Good players figure it out. I wouldn’t be concerned about that.”

It was not just that Mayfield threw the ball well — he did so with the same confidence and bravado that made him such a lightning rod for Oklahoma, literally slapping the behind (on multiple occasions) of the Broncos’ coach who served as his center and racing ahead of the other quarterbacks through drills, providing a buzz in the stands, that frankly, did not exist during the South Team’s practice earlier in the day.

While very good, Mayfield was not perfect. On a snap in which a Denver assistant coach repeatedly shouted, “Here’s the game!” to signify the final play of one-on-ones, Mayfield’s throw to Notre Dame tight end Durham Smythe failed to connect, though in fairness, this was more due to a great break on the ball by Texas A&M safety Armani Watts, one of several North defensive backs who enjoyed strong debuts themselves on Tuesday.

While Mayfield’s lack of ideal size remains a concern (at least for some) when projecting to the NFL, his late arrival will not be. Senior Bowl executive (and former Cleveland Browns general manager) Phil Savage announced to the NFL personnel and media who attended the weigh-in early Tuesday morning that Mayfield would arrive late due to a family issue on Sunday, delaying his flight.

Mayfield’s height, weight, hand size, arm length and wingspan will be measured and distributed to scouts Wednesday morning.

Among other notable observations from Tuesday’s North practice:

–Allen provided the same helter-skelter play that characterized his career with the Cowboys, delivering some of the prettiest passes of the day but following soon after with misfires in which he and his new teammates at receiver were clearly not on the same page. Scouts do not expect Allen to be as polished as Mayfield (or Falk, for that matter) and if he shows improvement throughout the week of practice, as expected, his status as a first-round pick — and perhaps very early one — will be cemented.

–Falk also showed good accuracy on most of his throws but his lack of top-notch velocity was all-too apparent in comparison, at least in comparison to Mayfield and Allen. One particular throw to the left sideline intended for Penn State tight end Mike Gesicki showed the wind-up and average RPMs that should concern scouts when projecting Falk to the NFL — with Hawaii safety Trayvon Henderson making a terrific break on the ball, nearly intercepting the throw.

–While Allen was erratic at quarterback, two other former Mountain West stars enjoyed solid Senior Bowl debuts with Boise State’s Wilson and Colorado State’s Michael Gallup showing the body control to gain separation as well as soft hands to pluck outside of their frame. Unfortunately, Tuesday’s practice was not as kind to Iowa State’s Allen Lazard, who possesses an imposing frame for a split end at 6-foot-4, 227-pounds but he dropped a couple of passes that left scouts in the stands grumbling.

–Among running backs, North Carolina State’s Jaylen Samuels (5-11, 224) provided the highlights, showing burst to and through the hole to break what would have been a long run up the middle on one play and leaving linebackers in his dust with quick stutter-steps as a route-runner on others.

–Boston College cornerback Isaac Yiadom was one of the few to get the better of Mayfield, showing excellent awareness of the ball (and all of his 32 1/4-inch arms) to slap away a well-thrown deep ball down the right sideline to Miami wideout Braxton Berrios. West Virginia safety Kyzir White also enjoyed a splashy debut, recording an interception late in the practice.

–On the injury front, Western Michigan cornerback Darius Phillips was seen walking off the field with a trainer midway through practice. His status for the remainder of the practice week or Saturday’s game was not immediately clear.

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