The 2018 NFL Draft came to a conclusion Saturday night when former SMU wide receiver Trey Quinn was selected by the Washington Redskins with the 256th overall pick. Traditionally, the draft’s storylines belong to early-round picks, but Quinn, 2018’s Mr. Irrelevant for being the last player chosen in the draft, is not as irrelevant as his title might suggest. As a 12-year-old, Quinn grabbed national headlines by throwing a no-hitter at the 2008 Little League World Series in Williamsport.
At the other end of the draft, the Cleveland Browns, who went 0-16 last season, took Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield with the No. 1 overall pick. Becoming the first draft pick, or even an NFL player, was not always something expected of Mayfield. In fact, out of high school, he was only offered a football scholarship by four FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) schools – Florida Atlantic, Rice, New Mexico, and Washington State.
When asked by Sportingnews.com how the other 119 FBS schools missed a talent like Mayfield, Hank Carter, Mayfield’s coach at Lake Travis High School, responded, “People wanted him. They just didn’t want him soon enough.”
Mayfield chose to reject his four scholarships and begin his college football career as a walk-on at Texas Tech. In Lubbock, Mayfield impressed his coaches from the minute he arrived on campus, becoming the first true freshman walk-on quarterback to start a season opener at a BCS school.
However, after a successful season in which he was named to the Freshman All-American honorable mention team, Mayfield was not offered a scholarship to remain at Texas Tech and decided to transfer to the University of Oklahoma. At Oklahoma, Mayfield again excelled on the field, finishing in the top four in Heisman voting three years running and twice being recognized as a first-team All-American.
Although no one disputed Mayfield’s football talents, prior to the draft, there were lingering concerns among many NFL executives about Mayfield’s emotional maturity. This past season, Mayfield was captured by cameras grabbing his crotch and yelling “F–k you!” at the Kansas sideline after they refused to shake his hand during the pregame captains’ meeting. He also planted the Oklahoma flag on the Ohio State logo after defeating the Buckeyes. Reportedly, his actions were in response to an argument with drunk Ohio State Fans. Most troubling, Mayfield was arrested in February 2017 for public intoxication and fleeing the scene after being involved in a early morning fight in Fayetteville, Ar.
Mayfield’s off-field antics have led many commentators to compare him to Johnny Manziel, another former Heisman Winner and Cleveland Browns quarterback whose troubles with drugs and alcohol led the Browns to release him after only two years in the league.
One NFL scout told Mary Kay Cabot, “Baker has a pattern of disrespect. Off-the-field, he’s Johnny Manziel.”
An NFL personnel executive echoed this sentiment, stating, “He [Mayfield] has not shown anywhere near enough emotional maturity to handle what’s coming his way. … A lot of Manziel characteristics.”
However, at the NFL Combine, Mayfield reportedly aced his interviews and alleviated most of the concerns about his character, allowing the Browns to take a chance on Mayfield at No.1.
Despite being taken first in the draft, Mayfield is not guaranteed the starting quarterback job in Cleveland. Over the offseason, the Browns acquired veteran quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who is expected to start the season as the starter. However, having gone 1-31 over the past two seasons, the Browns will likely have Taylor on a short leash, and Mayfield will surely be ready to stake his claim as the franchise’s quarterback of the future.
Another noteworthy storyline coming out of the 2018 draft is that of linebacker Shaquem Griffin, who was taken 141st overall by the Seattle Seahawks. At age four, Griffin was forced to have his left hand amputated because of amniotic band syndrome, a prenatal condition. Having only one hand did not stop Griffin from competing in sports alongside his twin brother Shaquill, and in 2012, both were offered scholarships to play at the University of Central Florida.
After struggling to find playing time during his first couple years in the program, a coaching change provided Shaquem with an opportunity.
Writing for The Players Tribune, Griffin stated, “Coach [Scott] Frost came in and brought me back into the light … He gave me the opportunity I had been waiting for ever since I first arrived at UCF. And I took advantage of it.”
In his first year as a starter, Shaquem was selected as the American Athletic Conference (AAC) Defensive Player of the Year and continued that success into his senior year, during which he was named to the All-AAC first team and in which he won the defensive MVP of the Peach Bowl.
Despite his success at UCF, Shaquem only received a late invitation to the NFL combine. Again, he took advantage of the opportunity, posting the fastest 40-yard dash for a linebacker since 2003, in addition to completing twenty 225-pound bench press reps using a prosthetic arm.
He now joins his twin brother on the Seahawks, where he hopes to impress and earn a spot on the team’s final roster. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll will not be cutting Shaquem any slack because of this story, telling reporters that although he is impressed and inspired by Shaquem’s accomplishments, “it will come down to football.”
Overall, there were a few clear-cut winners and losers of the draft. On top of drafting a franchise quarterback in Baker Mayfield, the Browns obtained a shutdown cornerback in Denzel Ward to work well within defensive coordinator Gregg Williams’ aggressive blitz schemes. Cleveland also drafted talented tackle Austin Corbett to replace future Hall of Famer Joe Thomas, who retired at the end of last season, in addition to one of the best running backs in the draft class, Nick Chubb.
The Arizona Cardinals also had a successful draft day after taking former UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen with the No. 10 overall selection. Rosen is the most NFL-ready of any of the draft class’ quarterbacks and will fill a void left by the retiring Carson Palmer and the injury-prone Sam Bradford. Rosen easily could have gone No. 1, and in his blunt post-draft press conference, he told reporters that he believes he is the best player in the 2018 draft class.
“There were nine mistakes made ahead of me. And I will make sure over the next decade or so that they will know they made a mistake.”
Unfortunately, the Buffalo Bills were not as successful as the Browns and Cardinals in their quarterback selection. The Bills selected Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen with the No. 7 overall pick. Last season, during his third year at Wyoming, Allen completed just 56.3 percent of his passes and only threw for 1,812 yards. Mayfield, by comparison, completed 70.5 percent of his throws for 4,340 yards in 2017. Allen especially struggled against high level competition.
Football Outsiders wrote, “Allen’s performance against top opponents was brutal. He threw two picks with no touchdowns against Iowa, with just 4.35 yards per attempt. He completed just 9-of-24 passes with 64 yards and a pick against Oregon. He completed 44 percent of passes with two picks and only 131 yards against Boise State.”
Allen has a strong arm and loads of potential, but I do not know whether his raw talent will translate to success in the NFL, especially given his lack of success at a mid-major school like Wyoming.
It is too early to know how the 2018 draft class will fare next season, but I expect Josh Rosen to finish as Offensive Rookie of the Year, while on the defensive side, Roquan Smith, the Butkus Award winner for the best linebacker in college football, is my prediction to win Defensive Rookie of the Year.