This year Baker Mayfield has not been good at all. Many fans are thinking he’s holding the Cleveland Browns back compared to where they could be. The Browns coming into the 2021 season were supposed to be Super Bowl favorites in the AFC and a top contender in the NFL. Especially making the AFC divisional game, but have not met expectations at all. From being Super Bowl favorites to not even making the playoffs and being second to last in the AFC North. Baker has been really bad and hasn’t shown improvements in his four years in the NFL.
So What Went Wrong With the 2021 Browns?
For one, Baker Mayfield is dealing with a pretty serious injury, which is a season-ending type of injury, that he’s playing through. Torn left shoulder labrum tear that he suffered not once but twice on September 19th and on October 17th. This injury is not only a serious one but it limits his play. The amount of difficulty to throw to the left side of the field with the injury and the low velocity is limiting him as a whole and his play on the field by a large margin. When Mayfield can’t open up his shoulders and generate velocity to make the throws with good accuracy your play isn’t going to be good at all. The playbook isn’t as open as it would if Mayfield was healthy. He is limiting his team by playing but is occupying a roster slot for him to recover from his injury. It is damned if you do, damned if you don’t the situation for the team.
The Browns don’t have an “Alpha” WR on the roster at all, even including Odell Beckham, when they had Beckham on the roster. They don’t have a WR who could keep the defense second-guessing. A WR core that consists of Ja’Marcus Bradley, Rashard Higgins, Jarvis Landry, Donovan Peoples-Jones, and Anthony Schwartz isn’t setting the league on fire.
The TE group consisting of Harrison Bryant, Austin Hooper, David Njoku, is a top-tier grouping in the league by a large margin. No hate on Jarvis Landry, but if Jarvis is your number one and you’re expecting to have a dominant passing game then you’re not thinking good at all. Anthony Schwartz, I loved coming out of Auburn, was one of 3 sleepers at WR I had in my 2020 Pre-draft rankings, but he’s a track star athlete who is raw and needs time to improve his game. Higgins is a depth guy/backup “Z” WR. Donovan Peoples-Jones has shown nice flashes but isn’t a guy you can rely on right now.
Finally, Ja’Marcus Bradley is a depth guy who might be your last WR on a roster that you store. The WR group here is, in my opinion, one of if not the worst in the NFL. Now even though the Browns WRs are not good as a whole, Mayfield isn’t seeing the field that good as well. His reads aren’t there and his shoulder with his injury is not helping him one bit.
Mayfield also caused the kicking out of Odell Beckham who didn’t get the ball as much as he thought he should. Beckham never had more than 10 targets in a game in 2021. What is crazy about Beckham is that he hasn’t had a 100-yard game since 2019! October 13, 2019, to be exact. Back in 2019, Joe Burrow was still at LSU and Luke Kuechly was in the NFL.
Potential Upgrades and What Baker Needs to Succeed
What Baker Mayfield needs is a true alpha “X” WR on the roster. Someone who the coach and the QB can trust to make a big play when needed. They don’t have that now. However, what Mayfield and the Browns need is running back Nick Chubb. What Chubb does to this offense is game-changing, him running the ball is key for balance.
One of the biggest things that young QBs don’t have most of the time is a top-tier running back. Most young QBs struggle when the run game isn’t doing good. Need a 3rd and 3 pick up and you’re at mid-field to keep the drive going and your QB is struggling? SAY LESS, run the ball, pick it up and breathe. Chubb is the right guy to do this.
What WRs should the Browns go after to give Baker some help? How about Chris Godwin from the Buccaneers? Godwin is a fascinating receiver who may struggle against press-man coverage. He’d be a great compliment to an offense that has a standout X-receiver, or he might be an excellent starter in a more evenly distributed passing attack. The Browns may go for this with the amount of depth they have. For the Browns, Goodwin could be a very good WR that they can go after who can be a “jack of all trades master on none” guy who is consistent week in and out.
Another candidate is Mike Williams from the LA Chargers. Mike Williams is a powerhouse deep threat down the field as well as in the red zone thanks to his imposing physique and leaping abilities. Williams is a big-play threat with contested catches but lacks the short-area quickness to be a complete receiver, which is OK. His playing style may result in him being banged up regularly. Some teams prepared to offer him top dollar may be concerned about his injury history.
A third player can be Michael Gallup, a WR from the Dallas Cowboys. With his footwork, hands, and route running, Gallup can operate as an X receiver as well as a Z receiver. He may lack the peak, dependability, or exceptional athleticism of the game’s finest receivers, but he’d be an excellent complement to an offense that has one.
Lastly, the final player, who in my opinion could go for the veteran minimum, is WR Will Fuller from the Miami Dolphins. Fuller, has shown flashes of being a dominant WR in the NFL. Fuller’s “stats” don’t show it as he hasn’t passed the One thousand-yard mark at all in his 5-year career so far. He did sign a one-year 10 million dollar deal fully guaranteed but only played in two games because of injury. Keep in mind that I don’t know the salary cap situation for the Browns.
To cap it all off here I think Mayfield can be a top 12 QB in the league when healthy, but needs that true “X, Alpha ”WR on the roster. The traits for Baker are there: an elite arm, an alpha mentality (which is bigger than people think, also the main reason why I love Mayfield), throwing with anticipation, throw accuracy is really good but needs trust in his players. I do think Mayfield can be successful in this league and he can be a Super Bowl-winning QB, but he needs players to help him out and take him to the promised land.
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