We inch closer to the 2018 NFL Draft by the day. As we get closer, we all run ideas in our head of who our team should draft, whether it be Josh Allen as your next quarterback or Calvin Ridley catching passes from Joe Flacco. There’s plenty of scenarios that can, and inevitably will, happen.
One of the best nicknames in the draft process is “Broadway Baker.” I heard it from Mel Kiper and Todd McShay, and it’s brilliant. But who’s going to be the team in New York that drafts him? The rumor right now is that he doesn’t get past the third overall pick, which belongs to the New York Jets. Personally, I think that would be a great fit for Baker and for the Jets. They would need to work on getting him some weapons, but overall, he could make it work.
From what I’ve collected, the Jets’ new offensive coordinator, Jeremy Bates, is looking to run a west coast offense. It will incorporate a vertical passing game and a running game that is reliant upon a zone blocking scheme. This sounds similar to what John Morton ran with the Jets last season. Bates was Jay Cutler’s quarterback coach during his 2008 Pro Bowl season, so if he can make it work with Cutler, he can make it work with anyone.
Clearly, we can make the case for Broadway Baker to the New York Jets. But what if the Jets can’t take him? What if the New York Giants is the team that plucks Baker Mayfield to be the successor to Eli Manning? It doesn’t seem likely, but I recently stated that the Giants have the best poker face in the draft. Nobody knows what direction they could go, and they could go in multiple directions. From Bradley Chubb to Josh Rosen, they all make sense. But Baker Mayfield to the New York Giants makes the most sense, and here’s why:
Play Action Passes:
Last year, the best quarterback in the country was Baker Mayfield. Do all great college quarterbacks translate to the NFL? Obviously not, but I feel certain that Baker Mayfield can, especially if he can get into an offense run by Mike Shula (Giants offensive coordinator) and overseen by Pat Shurmur (Giants head coach).
Starting with Mike Shula, he’s been a quarterbacks coach and an offensive coordinator everywhere he’s gone, dating back to 1996, where he was the Buccaneers’ offensive coordinator. He then became the Panthers’ quarterbacks coach in 2011 and was gifted with Cam Newton as his QB.
It hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows for their marriage, as Newton has had some accuracy issues. However, Newton has also been a three-time Pro Bowler, league MVP, and offensive rookie of the year.
Shula and the offensive staff tried their best to mesh the college game with the NFL game and Newton’s strengths. Such as using run-pass options.
Meanwhile, the Panthers had the top-ranked offense during the 2015 season. The two of them found success, and the same can happen with Baker Mayfield and Mike Shula. Expect the Giants to run similar concepts as the Panthers have with plenty of read options, fade routes, and play action passes.
Another reason why we’ll dive into play-action passes is that it’s something that Pat Shurmur lives for. For example, look at what he did with Case Keenum as his quarterback last season:
The Vikings were the second-ranked play-action team last year. Keenum was efficient, and with the help of the Vikings’ rushing attack, they made defenses pay. Clearly, the Giants will have to become more efficient running the football, but there’s no reason to believe they can’t with this coaching staff in place. How does this all translate to Broadway Baker?
QB Baker Mayfield threw 26 TDs, 0 INTs and completed 73.3% of his passes on play action passes last season! Per @SportsInfo_SIS
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) April 6, 2018
You can see that Baker Mayfield was quite successful with play action passes last year. For him, it should be an easy transition to the NFL and to find that type of success. During his senior season at Oklahoma, he targeted his tight ends second-most in the country (103 targets). That should bode well with Evan Engram, who had 115 targets with 64 receptions his rookie year.
Obviously, this play (see above) was with former head coach Ben McAdoo running the show. He got Engram involved, and I would imagine that the new Giants coaching staff can do the same. Throw in Baker Mayfield with Evan Engram, and that could be one of the most dangerous QB/TE tandems in the league.
Mayfield does a great job of escaping the pocket and creating plays downfield. He pulls from the jet motion and reads what his H-back is doing downfield, (keep in mind the Giants have Rhett Ellison and Evan Engram playing as H-back and tight end) and finds him in the end-zone. Again, play action passes are what allowed Baker to create these types of plays. The way he reads the defense post-snap is fantastic, and by having the Giants’ coaching staff with him, he would thrive.
There’s a lot more to Baker’s game than just his arm. He can run the ball, as well. Will he do it as frequently as he did at Oklahoma? Probably not. But with over 300 carries at Oklahoma, it’s clear that Baker can provide that dynamic for an offense, and especially with an offense that has Mike Shula, who has utilized the read option heavily over the last six seasons.
Not every team can run a multitude of read option plays. For the Panthers, they have Cam Newton, and he’s one of the most athletically gifted quarterbacks in the league. Baker isn’t close to that kind of athlete, but he can certainly handle himself when running the football.
Even during a broken play, Baker can make magic happen. It’s clear there was a miscommunication in the backfield, but he improvises and makes a whole lot of something out of nothing. Will this happen on Sunday’s? Not often, but it certainly can and will happen.
Here’s an example of the play run correctly, and Baker finds himself a big gain. Shula won’t run these a ton with Mayfield, but it will definitely be in their back pocket and could be used a lot in short yardage and within the red-zone. Who could be the deciding factor in all of this? Clearly, the coaching staff and how long Eli Manning decides to play will play a factor, but don’t sleep on Jonathan Stewart.
Jonathan Stewart may be a shell of his former self, but he brings experience to this backfield. He’s the only player on this offense that has experience with Mike Shula. Whether he helps with Paul Perkins or Wayne Gallman’s (see Clemson’s offense below – experience with read option) growth, one thing we can expect is that Stewart will get the ball.
Fades and Vertical Routes:
Lastly, I want to touch on how the Giants have the ability to go deep with the football. Already having Odell Beckham Jr. is a plus, but adding Mayfield will do wonders for this team when throwing the ball deep.
As you can see from Pro Football Focus (PFF), Baker Mayfield was the best deep passer on passes that traveled 20 yards or more. We can use the “defenses in the Big 12 conference aren’t any good” excuse, but the quarterback still has to execute. It’s clear that Mayfield can execute at an extremely high level when throwing the ball beyond 20 yards.
Slot fade wins again. Mayfield throws the WR open. Leads the WR to the sideline which allows the WR to separate horizontally enough to make the catch. Beautiful pic.twitter.com/qZeiV6yG8X
— Cover 1 (@Cover1) March 31, 2018
Everyone knows that Odell Beckham Jr., is one of the most gifted receivers when going vertical up the field. We will never forget his one-handed catch on Monday night and, of course, he’ll never live down his fights with kicking nets on the sideline. But when on the field and going vertical, he’s one of the most dynamic players in the league. On the play above, he hits the cornerback with a double move but still works his way up the sideline and creates an opening for the quarterback. Eli Manning delivers a great pass, and Beckham comes down with the catch. Even with Baker Mayfield under center, these plays can and will happen.
Adjusted completion percentage is a statistic that gives an understanding of how well a quarterback aimed and delivered to their target. Once again, nobody was better than Baker Mayfield when it came to that category. These aren’t numbers for just 20 yards or more; these are for any pass attempted (outside of throwaways and QB spikes).
What happens next?
We can predict what player will go where all day long. Truthfully, we don’t have a clue which team values which quarterback, especially the New York Giants. They have plenty of options with the second overall pick at the quarterback position. Sam Darnold should go first overall to the Cleveland Browns, and the Giants could decide between Josh Rosen and Baker Mayfield as the successor to Eli Manning.
Realistically, Josh Rosen is the most pro-ready quarterback. Having him sit behind Eli Manning isn’t a bad thing, but after going through how this new Giants offense might work, Baker Mayfield sounds like the ideal fit. He will give this offense plenty of versatility and allow his coaching staff to utilize him in a similar fashion to how they’ve utilized other quarterbacks (Cam Newton and Case Keenum).
While in Mobile, Alabama for the Senior Bowl, the player that stood out the most was Mayfield. It wasn’t because of just the boulder on his shoulder; it was because he was the leader on the field. He was the clear alpha in the pack. Despite never playing in the same locker room as these other players, he was the first one congratulating them on good plays. There’s an aura when he walks in the room and on the field. Positioning himself behind Eli Manning for a year will allow him to get comfortable and understand what New York is all about.
There are plenty of tools around him to be successful, from a franchise caliber left tackle in Nate Solder to a young versatile tight end in Evan Engram, and of course, Odell Beckham Jr. Keep in mind that he’ll also pair up with his former teammate, Sterling Shepard.
The former Heisman trophy winner has been to New York before, and he’ll be there again. This time, it’ll be for more than just a trophy presentation; it’ll be for a career filled with a harsh media presence and ton of success on the field. Don’t be surprised if behind Dave Gettleman’s poker hand is a royal flush that has Baker Mayfield written all over it at the second overall pick.