The NFL Scouting Combine starts next week, which means that the draft analysis is heating up. And by heating up, I mean already reaching peak stupidity. Like the suggestion that Lamar Jackson, who’s listed at 6’3, is too short to be an NFL quarterback and should move to wide receiver. Or that Baker Mayfield is the next Johnny Manziel. That comparison has been made numerous times and Baker Mayfield isn’t hearing it.

“We’re two completely different people. I’ve always been a team-oriented guy. Not saying that Johnny wasn’t, but I’ve quickly earned the respect of my teammates because of how I worked.”

By the way, if the first thing you say when the topic comes up, that you’re a team guy, but that’s not to say Johnny wasn’t. That’s exactly what you’re saying. Any time anyone starts a sentence with, I’m a team guy, it means you’re saying someone else isn’t or you say it because you’re defending yourself against the rap that you’re not a team guy yourself. And Mayfield is that.

You can crack him for a number of things but not being a bad teammate. Not for doing the things that everyone else on the team is doing to get better. So, of course, he’s saying Manziel wasn’t a team guy.

And A short-hand way of evaluating talent is to compare someone in this year’s class with someone from a previous class. But when you’re a draft prospect, the last thing you want is to be compared to one of the great busts in the last decade, especially when that guy is trying to get into the news for attempting a comeback and has issues with addiction and mental health.

The Manziel comparison has come up in the past and keeps coming up, and Mayfield wants to tamp it down. And Mayfield’s comments are pretty much exactly how you’d want to handle that comparison. Bash Manziel and it’s a story from now until the draft. Ignore the comparisons and they’ll keep coming up. So instead, he praises Manziel’s talent, while underlining his own work ethic.

“I wasn’t given the natural talent that Johnny had. Because he’s a talent. And there’s a reason he got taken in the first round, amazing player. We’re just not the same mentally. Just wired differently.”

There are similarities in their gunslinger approach on the field. The fact that in college, they both could make a nothing play into something and something into a highlight reel. And the fact that in College Station, Manziel had a similar aura and “it” factor to what Mayfield has. And that they’ve both had their share of controversy. And that’s the thing. While Mayfield has been the subject of some controversy, the people around him would be quick to point out that unlike Manziel, his controversies haven’t hurt anybody else.

The other thing Mayfield wants you to know is that he gets it: “You get a bunch of grown men that work really hard, so it’ll be different going from 18- [to] 22-year-olds to people that are feeding their families, their children. A lot of these guys make their money just based off work ethic and never quitting.”

In other words, you can trust me to show up and work hard, because I know what’s at stake, not only for me, but for my teammates. That’s smart, because that’s another way of delineating yourself from Manziel, who never really seemed to understand anything about the NFL or what it takes to stick and thrive there.

Is Mayfield ready to come in and be a Week 1 starter and lead an NFL team right out of the gate? I don’t know. But then again, I’m not sure how many of those guys there really are. I am prepared to say that I’ve seen enough to think that he isn’t Johnny Manziel. That doesn’t mean he’ll be a success, because so much of success in the NFL for quarterbacks is about landing in the right spot and being surrounded by the right people, but if it doesn’t work out for Mayfield, it won’t be because he’s the next Johnny Manziel.  Manziel just didn’t get it. And I’m not convinced he does today even after washing out completely. But Mayfield does. He knows what’s at stake. He knows not everyone is sold on him, or his character, or his size, or even his pro prospects. He is without questioning one of the most polarizing guys in the draft. And that’s good for that particular guy.  Because he has always run on that kind of fuel. The more you doubt him or crack him, the harder he works. And that right there is the biggest difference between he and Manziel. Mayfield works, Manziel didn’t. Mayfield gets it, Manziel didn’t.

Again, I don’t know if Mayfield will be a star or a guy ultimately holding a clipboard, but I guarantee he won’t be out of the sport within two years the way Manziel was.


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