NFL Betting: Will Baker Mayfield Have a Career Year With the Browns?
Baker Mayfield has been given the keys to the Cleveland Browns' car, and he definitely intends on driving it. He may be one of the league's most highly scrutinized players, but now you can multiply that times two entering his third season, with the most dynamic and talented Browns offense of the last decade at his disposal. Last season, he was careless, throwing the second-most interceptions (21), trailing only Jameis Winston's 30 and joining him as the only players to toss 20 interceptions.
Compared to his rookie season, Mayfield finished 2019 with more completions (317), attempts (534), and passing yards (3,827), but his quarterback rating dropped drastically from 93.7 as a rookie to 78.8 in his second season. For 2020, FanDuel Sportsbook lists Mayfield's over/under total for passing yards at 3,899.5 (-112) and passing touchdowns at 23.5 (-112), which would be a career high in yards and not far off from his 22 touchdowns in 2019.
His totals aren't far off from what they could have been with half the turnovers, so heading into 2020 with a new head coach, can Baker Mayfield hit the over on either of his passing props? Let's dive in.
Ground and Dawg Pound?
Kevin Stefanski enters his first season as head coach of the Browns coming off a fantastic offensive turnaround with the Minnesota Vikings. He made the Vikings a ground and pound team that controlled the turnovers and wore out their opponents. He took over as offensive coordinator in Minnesota, giving the team a late surge from Week 14 of the 2018 season and the entire 2019 campaign.
You can see the difference in the 2019 Vikings' production with Stefanski compared to the Vikings in 2018 with John DeFilippo for most of the season. The following table shows how the Vikings performed on a per-game basis in both seasons (ranks is listed in parentheses).
|Year||Passing Yards||Rushing Yards||Total Yards||Points||Giveaways||Rushes|
|2018||253.2 (13th)||93.3 (30th)||345.6 (21st)||22.5 (30th)||20 (T-16th)||22.2 (27th)|
|2019||220.2 (23rd)||133.3 (6th)||353.6 (16th)||25.4 (8th)||20 (T-13th)||29.2 (5th)|
Stefanski walks into almost dream-like scenario with Kareem Hunt and Nick Chubb as his running backs. Two of the top running back duos in the league are at his disposal, and both are 24 years old. Out at wide receiver, Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry give him among the most dangerous vertical and intermediate threats in the league. Adding icing on the cake is adding tight end Austin Hooper and offensive tackle Jack Conklin into the mix after they decided to sign with Cleveland.
With his new head coach, Mayfield has no reason to not have a career year entering his third season as a pro. There was a lot of pressure on his shoulders at just 23 years old in 2019, but he still finished 12th in completed air yards (2,096) and 14th in total passing yards (3,827). He also ranked seventh in the league with 74 deep balls (4.6 per game) and 13th in deep ball completion rate (39.4%).
Interceptions were one his biggest issues, and he had a total of 29 interceptable passes (fifth-most), meaning 75.8% of potential picks actually became turnovers. Interestingly enough, he ranked seventh in pressured completion percentage (40.8%), so he turned the ball over too often without a hand in his face. That's something that you can't teach but is something you can work on with play-calling and play-design -- meaning running the ball more and throwing shorter, more efficient routes.
The offensive line finished 23rd as a unit according to Pro Football Focus' (PFF), too, which likely contributed to Mayfield getting sacked 40 times last season, 15 more than as a rookie. Jack Conklin should help Cleveland's line get back on track, and the Browns are also expected to address the position in the draft.
Cleveland could also see improvement in their red zone efficiency. In 2018, they finished sixth in red zone scoring, reaching the end zone 66.67% of the time. But in 2019, they dropped to 14th, converting trips into six points 58% of the time.
Last year, Mayfield had 78 red zone attempts in 2019 (sixth-most), so any improved efficiency could provide a big boost. Tight end Austin Hooper could be that guy, as he finished tied for second among tight ends with 10 red zone receptions in 2019, with all six of his touchdowns coming inside the 20-yard line (T-3rd).
Mayfield and the Browns should be better off offensively this season with Freddie Kitchens and Todd Monken no longer calling the shots. Expect Stefanski and company to focus in on reducing Mayfield's interceptions -- even if it's just down to a Baker's dozen.
Our JJ Zachariason projects Mayfield to post a big year for the Browns, with a career-best 3,904 yards on 527 pass attempts (2nd-most) and 26 touchdowns (2nd-most) while also tying for a career-low 14 interceptions.
Zachariason's projections on passing yards barely hits the over, and his touchdowns passes by two scores. Out of those props, I favor the over on Mayfield's touchdowns more, as Stefanski's rushing history paired with Chubb and Hunt give the Browns a well-balanced offense, so Mayfield might not see a huge improvement in terms of yards.
But with the most talented offensive coach of his career and plenty of reasons to believe the Browns can become more efficient this season, side with Mayfield to bounce back and hit the over on his 23.5 passing touchdowns.