Herbstreit high on Browns rookie QB


ESPN analyst talks up Mayfield

during Champions Among Us event

By MIKE MCLAIN

sports@vindy.com

POLAND

Some football experts think the Cleveland Browns made a mistake using the first overall draft pick on Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield.

ESPN college football analyst Kirk Herbstreit isn’t one of them. If anything, Herbstreit sounds like he could be Mayfield’s publicity agent.

“I don’t care that he’s 6-1 or six feet tall,” Herbstreit said. “Ironically the NFL is moving more and more toward the college game offensively, and he’s coming, in my opinion, from the most innovative college offense that there is.

“If the Browns are smart, they’re going to really research the Oklahoma offense and put their pride aside and their traditions aside, and say we’re going to put him in a system that’s comfortable to him. The Rams have done that with Jared Goff. If the Browns do that, look out, because this kid is for real.”

Herbstreit added the role of draft-night analyst to his ESPN work this year. He was often asked which of the leading quarterbacks he would choose first, and Mayfield’s name emerged.

“I just went based on watching all these guys play,” said Herbstreit, the featured speaker Thursday at the United Way Champions Among Us banquet at The Lake Club. “In college football, if you move the ball down the field and score touchdowns consistently, that’s good, no matter how tall you are. The kid did it.”

Herbstreit had a front-row seat for many of Mayfield’s biggest games during his three years as a starter for the Sooners. The performances Mayfield staged in some of those games, plus what he showed during his high school career in Texas, sold Herbstreit.

“He’s a winner,” Herbstreit said. “He won two state championships in high school football. [He] walked on twice in college football, won three Big 12 championships and led his team to two playoff appearances. What more can he do?”

Herbstreit isn’t alone in his view of Mayfield, whom the Browns selected instead of Wyoming’s Josh Allen, USC’s Sam Darnold and UCLA’s Josh Rosen. Still, there are skeptics who question Mayfield’s height, which was listed at 6 feet and 3/8 inches at the NFL combine. Mayfield has also been criticized for being over the top in his enthusiasm for the game.

The height and overly competitive issues drew comparisons to quarterback Johnny Manziel, a first-round pick by the Browns in 2014. Manziel’s career took a quick nosedive based solely on well-documented personal issues.

Herbstreit sees no comparison between Mayfield and Manziel.

“Completely not fair,” Herbstreit said. “He [Mayfield] has done some things he’d probably tell you aren’t in his best interest. He has a competitive fire. If we set up a ping-pong table and played and you beat him, he would be throwing the paddle.

“He’s a crazy, competitive guy. He’s trying to harness that. In the NFL he’s going to get taunted. People are going to chirp to him, whisper in his ear. In the past he would use that and get back in their face and he’d come close to getting a penalty. As a quarterback in the NFL, and even in college, you can’t do that.”

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