Heading into the 2021 NFL season, there are eight potential starting quarterbacks who entered the league as a No. 1 overall draft pick. The first overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, Jacksonville's Trevor Lawrence, joins a well-established group that includes:
- Joe Burrow, Cincinnati Bengals (2020)
- Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals (2019)
- Baker Mayfield, Cleveland Browns (2018)
- Jared Goff, Detroit Lions (2016, drafted by Rams)
- Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints (2015, drafted by Bucs)
- Cam Newton, New England Patriots (2011, drafted by Panthers)
- Matthew Stafford, Los Angeles Rams (2009, drafted by Lions)
Looking at this crop of quarterbacks as the season nears, one question comes to mind:
Which QB taken first overall will win the most games in 2021?
Between an excellent offseason in free agency and the draft, Baker Mayfield and the Cleveland Browns have the potential to not just make the playoffs but to challenge the Ravens for the AFC North. Mayfield gets to operate behind a top offensive line and with a superior running back corps in a system designed to showcase his strengths. Oh, and the improved defense helps tremendously.
I can't wait to watch Matthew Stafford in Sean McVay's offense. Coupling his physical ability and experience with the Rams' scheme and offensive talent feels like an NFC West title and Super Bowl appearance waiting to happen -- even in arguably the NFL's toughest division.
Give me Baker Mayfield. I'm not saying he's the best quarterback of the group (although I don't like the blatant disrespect he receives; I mean, he did lead Cleveland to a playoff win last year and should be celebrated), but he is in the best situation. Like Axl Rose. Not the greatest vocalist ever (maybe he is). But he was in the best situation for him. And when I look at what the Browns did in the offseason, both in the draft and in free agency, this is easily one of the top four teams in the AFC. Kyler Murray would be my backup choice.
Baker Mayfield made huge strides last year and could become the best quarterback of former No. 1 overall picks in 2021. More importantly, the Browns' offseason additions have made them the strongest overall team of this crop and quite possibly the entire NFL. Combine that with the newfound confidence from an 11-win 2020 season, a statement victory over rival Pittsburgh on Super Wild Card Weekend and going toe-to-toe with the Chiefs in the Divisional Round, Mayfield and the Browns look poised to win around 13 games in 2021. That number is hard to rival.
The love for Baker Mayfield seen above, while somewhat surprising, isn't unrealistic. I just feel like Matthew Stafford's experience and new supporting cast might give him a higher chance of finishing 2021 with a greater win total. Stafford has proven throughout his career he's capable of elevating his team's offense with his arm, and now he has a group of teammates worthy of serious consideration. Stafford moves to Los Angeles to join an aerial attack that features receivers Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, two trusty pass-catchers who have shown the ability to thrive in Sean McVay's scheme. With promising running back Cam Akers returning for his second NFL season and McVay now equipped with a quarterback who meets his standard, Stafford is poised to potentially post one of the best seasons of his career.
The Rams already own the league's reigning top defense, and now they have an offense that, on paper, seems prepared to bring its production closer to Los Angeles' stingy group of defenders. That should produce statistics not seen from Stafford since the 2011 season, and could lead to a greater win total than Los Angeles' 10 victories from 2020.
Baker Mayfield is ascending in his career, heading into his fourth pro season, and he has the best team around him. Following a 2020 campaign that saw the Browns go 11-5 and earn a playoff win, Mayfield's second year with Kevin Stefanski will show increased confidence and lead to his best season yet.