Baker Mayfield’s play on the football field stands on its own. Forty-eight total touchdowns, a combined 4,938 total yards, a Heisman Trophy award. These are a few samplings of his head-turning and highlight reel-making accolades.
The former Oklahoma quarterback did it all while doubling as the most interesting man in college football.
So when Mayfield is at this week’s NFL Scouting Combine, his lack of size may come into question, but few can argue with his on-field product.
“He’s an exciting talent, and I think an intelligent coach will know how to use him to the best of his ability,” NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said Monday during a conference call.
But what will come under scrutiny is the persona Mayfield carried as a two-year starter for the Sooners, a fiery, competitive gunslinger who found himself in more than one precarious situation — a February 2017 arrest followed by an obscene gesture during a November win at Kansas.
Mayfield, one of 29 Big 12 players at the annual combine that runs through March 5, will get a chance to alter his perception in front of all 32 NFL teams.
“I think it really comes down to off-the-field, face-to-face, in the meeting rooms with the decision-makers whether or not you’re going to buy into his character and him being the face of your franchise,” Mayock said. “I think there are going to be some teams that say, ‘No, I’ve seen some talent, but it’s not my guy.’ I think some other teams are going to say, ‘No biggie, maybe some emotional competitive immaturity but, outside of that, I’m good.’”
On-field workouts begin Friday with running backs, offensive linemen and specialists. Quarterbacks and wide receivers test Saturday. Defense is broken into two groups Sunday (defensive line and linebackers) and Monday (defensive backs).
Oklahoma and Texas are sending a league-high six participants to the combine followed by Oklahoma State with five.
Aside from Mayfield, Mayock said he’s most interested in watching a group of three players, all of whom hail from Oklahoma State — quarterback Mason Rudolph and wide receivers James Washington and Marcell Ateman.
Mayock thinks four quarterbacks, including Mayfield, will go in the first round. Then there are wild cards like Rudolph, who threw for nearly 5,000 yards, and Louisville's Lamar Jackson who could sneak in late in the first.
“Rudolph, I don’t think he’s going there, I have him in the second round,” said Mayock, noting how he never saw Rudolph throw at the Senior Bowl due to a foot injury. “But the way things are going in today’s NFL, who knows.”
Wide receivers aren’t in as high demand at the top of the draft board, but Mayock said there is depth in rounds 2-4. This is where several Big 12 receivers could land, such as Washington, Ateman and Iowa State’s Allen Lazard.
In fact, Washington, the Biletnikoff Award winner who led the country with 1,549 receiving yards, could move up into the first round mix with a strong combine showing. Just last week, ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper projected Washington to the Panthers with the No. 24 overall pick.
Washington was one of three Big 12 players in the first round of Kiper's mock draft, joining Mayfield (No. 6 to the Jets) and Oklahoma offensive tackle Orlando Brown (No. 16 to the Ravens), whom Kiper referred to as a “mauler” and “road grader” during last week’s conference call.
Texas offensive lineman Connor Williams is expected to test out well, which could solidify a first-round grade. Mayock has Williams as his third-ranked tackle behind Notre Dame’s Mike McGlinchey and Brown.
“Had he played all year and not had the injury, he would have been in the first round definitely,” said Kiper, referring a knee ailment Williams suffered early in the season.
Williams is one of five Texas underclassmen to declare early. Mayock said cornerback Holton Hill brings intrigues thanks to his 6-foot-3 frame, although Mayock did mention his off-the-field concerns stemming from a three-game suspension to end the regular season.
Of the Big 12 participants, 19 come from the offensive side. Wide receivers and tight ends are the busiest positions, accounting for nine slots.
Oklahoma’s Mark Andrews, one of Mayfield’s most trusted targets, is the lone tight end of the group. The junior is regarded as one of the top tight ends due to his threat as a receiver, not his blocking, as noted by both Mayock and Kiper.
“Mark Andrews is a great pass-catching tight end, H-back,” Kiper said. “Move him around and he can stretch the middle.
“Blocking is the big issue, in-line blocking is a big problem. Blocking overall has got to improve in that area. I just think as a pass-catcher, he’s a second-round draft choice at worst.”
Big 12 combine participants
Oklahoma (6) — QB Baker Mayfield, RB Dimitri Flowers, OT Orlando Brown, TE Mark Andrews, DL Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, CB Jordan Thomas
Texas (6) — OT Connor Williams, RB Chris Warren, LB Malik Jefferson, CB Holton Hill, S DeShon Elliot, P Michael Dickson
Oklahoma State (5) — QB Mason Rudolph, WR James Washington, WR Chris Lacy, WR Marcell Ateman, S Tre Flowers
West Virginia (3) — S Kyzir White, WR Ka’Raun White, RB Justin Crawford
Texas Tech (3) — QB Nic Shimonek, WR Keke Coutee, WR Dylan Cantrell
TCU (2) — OT Joseph Noteboom, RB Kyle Hicks
Kansas State (2) — WR Byron Pringle, CB D.J. Reed
Kansas (1) — DL Dorance Armstrong
Iowa State (1) — WR Allen Lazard