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Can a New Coach Fix Baker Mayfield in 2020?


Another season has passed and another disappointment by Browns fans has been realized. Baker Mayfield got the head coach he wanted in Freddie Kitchens in 2019. In 2020, hopefully he's got the one he needs in Kevin Stefanski.

Last season, under Kitchens, Mayfield had a coach he could control and manipulate. He did just that to the detriment of everyone in the organization. John Dorsey allowed it to happen and it festered into a disaster for everyone involved. Only by good fortune was Nick Chubb able to rise above the ashes and have a great season.

With Stefanski in tow, there is optimism for change. But how much? It is Cleveland after all, so if there wasn’t dysfunction, there would be no function at all. This was shown yet again by reports the coaching staff is going to have to run their gameplan through the analytics department each week to see if it passes muster. But there has been some tape, from 2018 of course, to show Mayfield can be a solid quarterback with the right coaching. So, things are not all bad. But what can we realistically expect in 2020?

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The Stefanski Effect

We know Stefanski wants to run the ball. He did so in Minnesota, which is why he got the offensive coordinator job to begin with. But he also had Dalvin Cook behind center to do the running. Yes, Nick Chubb is on par with Cook as a runner, albeit in a different manner. But Cook is far superior to Chubb in one key aspect - the receiving game.

Whereas Cook could help in the offense even when the running game is not working, this is not a key part of Chubb's game. This aspect was left to Kareem Hunt, who caught 37 passes in just eight games. This is a luxury that Cleveland will likely not have next year as Hunt becomes a free agent. This means either the Browns will need to bring in a different pass-catching back to complement Chubb or find other ways to get the ball out of the backfield when the run game falters. This scenario is sure to happen if the offensive line does not improve this offseason through free agency and the draft.

Expect the Browns to therefore count more on Mayfield this coming season. If he is able to gain the confidence he had as a rookie, this could be a success. If he continues with the misguided self-confidence of 2019? Well, he may make Jameis Winston look accurate by comparison.

 

The Supporting Cast

Odell Beckham Jr. had a miserable first season in brown and orange. Some of it was due to his playing through injury and part of it was the team as a whole. If his talent is able to finally shine again in 2020, the ceiling is again unlimited for him and the Browns offense. But it has been a couple of years since this ceiling was in reach for him. The only thing we know about him at this point is he is a diva and you don’t want him anywhere near college players who still have eligibility left on their careers.

We also saw him take a secondary role to Jarvis Landry in the offense. Much of this was due to the pressure felt by Mayfield, forcing him to get balls out quickly. When he did find his own team, more than likely it was Landry, not Beckham who was on the receiving end of the connection. This will need to change if the Browns want to be successful under Stefanski and Mayfield.

Stefanski is smart enough to know how talented both of these former college teammates are. But he also knows, at least for the passing game, it needs to go through Beckham. He is the matchup nightmare for defenses. He is an outside threat whose incredible catch ability makes him almost impossible to defend when he is right. Landry, on the other hand, while great at what he does, is not a field stretcher. Much like a Larry Fitzgerald or Julian Edelman, he will get you 100 receptions, but it will come for likely less than 1,000 yards and five touchdowns. This makes him a great chain-mover but not the dominant player of a Beckham, Michael Thomas or to a lesser extent Golden Tate.

The return of a healthy David Njoku may not be an earth-shattering event, but it will help by adding another pass-catching threat that was missing in 2019. If they can add a reliable third option at receiver, as opposed to the inconsistent Antonio Callaway, then that may help even more.

The Cleveland run game with Nick Chubb was very successful this season, even behind a terrible offensive line. With John Dorsey out and a new regime hopefully willing to build the trenches, it will only get better under a coach who knows its importance. Whether it be by bringing in a second back to catch passes or using Chubb more so in the pass game, this can only help in the hopeful rejuvenation of the brand of Baker Mayfield. His cockiness and arrogance are good to an extent. But he needs to relax until he actually proves he is better than mediocre, which he should do in 2020.

 

ADP Expectations

After being drafted sixth among fantasy quarterbacks, only to finish outside the top 25, it will be good to see Mayfield plummet down draft boards back to where he belongs. Instead of drafting him at his absolute ceiling, you can now wait until the later rounds, get him at QB 12 or 15 and feel much more confident he is not going to absolutely sink your season.

With this in mind, if you are willing to wait and draft him this late, he is certainly a buy in 2020. He may not be as good as the second half of his rookie season of 2018, but it will be far better than his sophomore season of 2019. But if you try and get cute again and draft him with the confidence of being a top-five fantasy QB, he might just leave a Cleveland Brownie in the shorts of your fantasy season yet again. So, buyer beware.

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