Like any first overall pick, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield faced immense pressure after his name was called in 2018. He was expected to help bring a down-trodden franchise out of the doldrums of the NFL. Given the history of the Browns, that was a tall task.
Cleveland has run through numerous quarterbacks since coming back to the NFL in 1999. They have had 15 different quarterbacks lead the team in passing yards in a season since then. Cleveland is hopeful that Mayfield is their quarterback for the foreseeable future, and he looks like he may be.
Mayfield had a breakout in 2020, helping the Browns to the playoffs for the first time since 2002. They defeated their arch-nemesis, the Pittsburgh Steelers, in the AFC Wild Card round before losing a tough game to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Now, expectations are on the rise in Cleveland and Mayfield is as big of a reason why. Could Baker Mayfield take home some hardware at the end of this season? Here are three reasons the former Oklahoma Sooner is an MVP candidate this season.
The Browns Could Be Contenders
While the MVP is an individual award, team success also plays a part. If you are the quarterback of a team that is winning a division and looking as if they will be contenders in the postseason, it will help your case.
Cleveland looks like just that this season. They should be right there with the Baltimore Ravens and Steelers in the AFC North for the division crown. The team won 11 games last season and there is no reason they cannot replicate or even surpass that during the 2021 season.
In 2020 they slew the big bad Steelers. If they can do that to the Ravens this season, Baker Mayfield will be right in the thick of the MVP discussion.
Strong Coaching Staff
The 2021 season will be a first for Baker Mayfield in his NFL career. It is the first time that he will have the same head coach for consecutive seasons. Mayfield played for four different head coaches his first three seasons in the league, but Kevin Stefanski looks like he is here to stay.
Stefanski has a good system, as the Minnesota Vikings produced a solid offense when he was their offensive coordinator in 2019 before taking over as the Browns head coach in 2020. That kind of continuity should help Mayfield even more in 2021, as he is not learning a new system for the first time in an offseason in his career.
Being able to focus on the nuances of the offense and really dig deep should only improve Mayfield’s numbers as he will have full control and a total understanding of the playbook.
Improved Supporting Cast
Having good players around you is imperative to winning an NFL MVP award and Baker Mayfield has that. The Browns have a strong offensive line, which is key in helping keep Mayfield upright so that he can make plays.
At running back, Cleveland has one of the best duos in the league with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Chubb wears defenses down between the tackles while Hunt excels as a pass-catcher.
At wide receiver, Mayfield will be getting Odell Beckham Jr. back in the fold. While he took his game to another level after Beckham suffered an injury in 2020, having a player of that talent on the field should only help.
In addition to Beckham, the Browns also have Jarvis Landry, Rashad Higgins and Donovan Peoples-Jones at wide receiver. Their three-headed monster at tight end in Austin Hooper, David Njoku and Harrison Bryant gives the Browns plenty of options offensively.
When you throw a dominant defense on top of it, the Browns have surrounded Mayfield with a deep, talented roster that he should have no problem excelling alongside.