After a wildly successful collegiate football career, it came to no surprise that Baker Mayfield would be regarded as one of the top players in the 2018 NFL Draft, but nobody expected him to go as the top pick. During his senior season, the Oklahoma product did everything possible to place him in a different pantheon than other prospects. For starters, he cleaned up just about every major award in college and he led his team to the College Football Playoff for the second time in three years.
Mayfield’s on-field skills are good, but not elite. He's accurate, but he does not have a big arm. He can make plays with his feet, but he does not scare defensive coordinators at the next level. Some of the throws he made in the Big 12 will not happen in the NFL due to ball-placement, timing, and the lack of elite arm strength.
At Oklahoma, Mayfield had the luxury of playing for a team littered with offensive talent. Lincoln Riley, who is an offensive guru in the making put Mayfield in a position to make huge plays relying on the talent around him. Running backs Trey Sermon, Rodney Anderson, and Abdul Adams combined for over 2,300 yards, and the wide receiving and tight end core led by Mark Andrews, Marquise Brown, and CeeDee Lamb were arguably the best receiving trio in the country. Lastly, the offensive line starring Orlando Brown, Bobby Evans, Erick Wren, and Ben Powers was one of the best in the country.
When looking at the film Mayfield is not a sure-fire No.1 pick compared to guys like Andrew Luck and Cam Newton.
Coupled with him not being an elite talent at quarterback with character concerns it was surprising to see him be the top pick in the NFL Draft. Many believed Mayfield wouldn’t be drafted as high because of that. It was hard to argue against that because players before Mayfield such as often-compared Johnny Manziel, Dez Bryant, Laremy Tunsil, and a host of others all saw their draft stock plummet because of character concerns.
That said, when Baker Mayfield became the No.1 selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, four things came to mind.
First, it was amazing to see someone who was a walk-on at two universities meet success at the highest level. Being that Mayfield was the first No.1 selection in the NFL Draft that was a walk-on, it inspires many young athletes to chase their dreams. The odds were never in Mayfield’s favor and he persevered.
Second, he’d breathe life into a franchise that's been the laughing stock of the NFL for what feels like forever.
Third, with his playing style and moxie, he will have a chance to be a historic figure in the realm of Cleveland sports if he mirrors the play that earned him the Heisman Trophy in 2017.
Last, and perhaps more importantly, there's a few questions that need answers. How in the hell was Mayfield the top choice with his character flaws? Like, his well-documented arrest, his crotch-grabbing performance, and his lack of respect for his opponents in some games. Also, what about the football player? He is smallish with an okay arm that has swag. Does that warrant being selected No.1? For me that does not scream can't miss prospect, but he was drafted as one.
But, this points to his privilege.
Privilege is defined as a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.
It’s nothing against him, but the facts are the facts. Mayfield being draft No. 1 is the epitome of that privilege.
Mayfield was arrested on February 25th, 2017, in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and was charged with public intoxication, disorderly conduct, fleeing, and resisting arrest. Much of this was caught on video:
In the video, Mayfield uses profanity toward police officers and attempts to flee the scene. For some, these offenses could have ended with deadly consequences. For Mayfield, he is merely tackled by officers. After being arrested, and to no surprise, Mayfield received a slap on the wrist as he had to pay $300 in fines. In addition to that, he had to pay $160 in court costs and $483.20 in restitution fees.
It only takes one viewing of the video to understand why some wonder why Mayfield was afforded the privileges some could only dream about as they face different consequences as a part of the day-to-day nightmares they call life.
To keep this in context, there are a number of his new NFL peers who may dream about sharing in Mayfield’s privilege. To put it bluntly, they would like their play on the field to speak for itself, and non-game related incidents to be glossed over – or even better, to be forgotten.
Enter Lamar Jackson, a player who was drafted 31 spots behind Mayfield who had equal success with much less talent around him. In addition to that, Jackson was doubted because of his style of play, slight build (6’2", 216 lbs), and the fact he wanted to stay a quarterback,. Although Jackson also won a Heisman trophy (and has not fled the police while publicly intoxicated), he hasn’t been given the same privilege as Mayfield even though he is the more superior talent.
Simply put, Mayfield's character isn't being held in high regard just as past top draft picks.
Mayfield’s antics are polarizing and he will be further scrutinized going forward... or will he?
If I told you that in 2018 that there is video evidence of a football player, who is a quarterback, a title where that person is supposed to embody leadership and character, resisted arrest, used profanity towards police officers, and displayed lewd gestures during a game, one would assume that they would not be drafted as the top pick in any draft.
Things have changed for some, and because of that, Mayfield being the No.1 pick in the NFL Draft exudes a level of privilege that can no longer go unnoticed.