There was a palpable shock throughout the sports world when the Cleveland Browns selected Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield No. 1 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Mayfield, who was near the top of most draft rankings, shockingly was the first player off the board. On Thursday, Mayfield showed flashes of brilliance to validate the rationale behind Cleveland’s front office investing in him for the future.
The Browns opened their preseason with a 20-10 win against the New York Giants; the highlight of the game was a 54-yard touchdown pass from Mayfield to fellow rookie wide receiver Antonio Callaway early in the fourth quarter:
Mayfield is able to squeeze that ball into a tight window as Callaway runs a slant. Callaway’s speed does the rest, as he flies to the middle of the field and beats the Giants’ secondary up the field for the touchdown.
Looking poised and sharp like a seasoned veteran, Mayfield finished 11-for-20, with 212 yards and two touchdowns; he also added 13 yards on the ground.
The pair of rookies also connected on this throw in the third quarter:
Mayfield shows the ability to roll out of the pocket, calmly avoid contact, as Callaway, like another seasoned veteran, finds his way back to the football toward the sideline.
The Giants’ defense is a work in progress, and the starters were long out of the game by this point, but it’s hard not to like what the Mayfield-Callaway combination did in the second half.
Tyrod Taylor, who was acquired in an offseason trade with the Buffalo Bills, also looked good in his only series to start the game. Taylor went 5-for-5 for 99 yards and a touchdown.
Browns head coach Hue Jackson is a fan of Taylor, who, as a veteran in a locker room full of first and second-year players, is the leading candidate to open the season as the team’s starting quarterback as Cleveland looks to avoid going 0-16 again in 2018.