Baker Mayfield NFL Combine

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From QB 14 to No. 6: Baker Mayfield and the Browns a year later

With quest for QB complete, John Dorsey’s eyes are elsewhere at 2019 NFL Combine

March 1, 2019
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Daryl Ruiter-Indianapolis, IN (92.3 The Fan) – It was almost a year ago – March 2, 2018 to be exact – when Baker Mayfield, wearing a pullover with QB 14 on the front of his left shoulder, stepped up to podium 1 in the media center at the Indiana Convention Center and made his case to save the Cleveland Browns from themselves.

“I think if anybody’s gonna turn that franchise around it’d be me,” Mayfield declared.

A year later, Mayfield has been a man of his word.

Browns general manager John Dorsey ignored the narratives about Mayfield’s maturity and character flaws, height too, and picked Mayfield, the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner and walk-on QB at Texas A&M and Oklahoma, No. 1 overall.

In the National Football League, without a quarterback, you might as well fold the franchise. The Browns were living proof of that for 19-plus years before Mayfield came along.

“We all know it’s a quarterback-driven league and you have to have certain pieces in place to move that team forward and it just so happens to be the quarterback position,” Dorsey said Thursday. “So you first and foremost have to get that position right, regardless if it’s trade or it’s draft or it’s unrestricted free agency and then you build your team around that.” 

Dorsey appears to have gotten it right with Mayfield and he’s now ready to build the team around him.

In just 14 games – 13 starts – Mayfield broke the NFL’s rookie record for touchdown passes once held by Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson by throwing 27 of them. The Browns scored 27 touchdowns combined in their O-fer 16 2017 season.

Mayfield shattered the franchise rookie passing yardage mark by throwing for 3,725 yards. He won two more games as a starter – six – than the franchise won the previous three seasons combined.

Which brings us to the 2019 NFL Combine where Dorsey is investing his attention and resources elsewhere, because he can.

The quarterbacks had everyone around the league excited a year ago. This year the excitement is for prospects on the other side of the ball.

“The defensive line to me truly sticks out over all the other positions,” Dorsey said of this draft class.

Dorsey would like to find an impact run stopper and pass rusher to put in the middle of the defensive line and the draft in April appears to be his best opportunity to fill that hole, and a few others too.

“Every draft class is different,” Dorsey said. “You begin the process of evaluating those draft classes, the strengths and weaknesses of it, there’s depth at a lot of positions it just so happens this year, but the defensive line to me truly sticks out over all the other positions.”

Dorsey is also impressed with this year’s crop of corners.

Sure, he spent the fourth overall pick last year on Pro Bowler Denzel Ward, but that won’t preclude him from drafting another in 2019.

“I think the strength of it is in the depth of the class,” Dorsey said. “I think there are some very talented individuals with some size and actual speed. That's why I can't wait to watch those guys run here coming up here later, what, Monday? And watch those guys work out on Monday.”

After re-signing Greg Robinson earlier this week, the perception is that Dorsey can push off the urgency to find the long-term replacement for Joe Thomas, who retired after the 2017 season, at left tackle, but Dorsey won’t stop looking.

He also will look at finding Mayfield another target to throw to. Size and speed are necessities.

“The receiving class in this draft class, there’s a lot of big guys,” Dorsey said. “And there’s one or two smaller guys that are really exceptional fast. Size and speed do different dynamics of the game, the offensive game plan. So I think it comes down to that individual person, of kind of what makes him click.

“I’d like to have a 6-3 guy that can run 4.3. I’ll take that every day, but you’re not going to get those guys [all the time]. So you really want competitive guys that love the game of football.”

On Friday, Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins and a host of other quarterbacks will take the podiums in the media center here in Indianapolis and state their cases as to how they plan or can save the next franchise.

In Cleveland, no one needs to listen.

Especially Dorsey because he has Mayfield.