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Baker Mayfield and Jared Goff: Have these former No. 1 overall picks lived up to draft reputation?

Jared Goff
Credit: Scott R. Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

Back in 2016, the Los Angeles Rams made Jared Goff the first overall pick of the NFL Draft. Two years later, the Cleveland Browns selected Baker Mayfield first overall in the 2018 NFL Draft.

Neither player is still with their original team. Despite both once being viewed as the franchise solution at quarterback, both were traded before their second NFL contracts took effect.

Experiencing several ups and downs in their careers, now both Goff and Mayfield are back in the playoffs, albeit with new teams. In the end, did the former first overall picks get the last laugh? Let’s look at whether Goff and Mayfield are living up to their draft status.

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Baker Mayfield develops into franchise QB, four teams later

baker mayfield
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The Cleveland Browns may have made Baker Mayfield a No. 1 pick, but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers didn’t have to invest that same draft capital in the former Oklahoma star. Instead, the Buccaneers ‘lucked’ into a situation where they had a roster coming off a playoff appearance but were also losing arguably the greatest QB of all time with Tom Brady’s retirement.

From an outsider’s perspective, the Buccaneers were viewed as a desirable destination, but signing with Tampa Bay provided no guarantees at the QB position. The goal was to give former second-round pick Kyle Trask every opportunity to land the full-time starting job. After all, the contract Mayfield signed was minuscule by NFL standards, paying him $4 million for one season, making him the 41st-highest-paid QB in the NFL in 2023. Yet, Mayfield took the job and never looked back at the others on the Buccaneers’ depth chart.

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In leading the Buccaneers to the playoffs, Mayfield has drastically outperformed his salary this season, but he’s also set for free agency once the offseason begins. With that in mind, along with others such as Kirk Cousins set for unrestricted free agency, how valuable is Mayfield? Has he repaired his stock as a former top pick in the NFL?

As mentioned, it really doesn’t matter whether Mayfield lives up to his draft status anymore. The Browns already decided he wasn’t worth it. But perhaps that only put a bigger chip on the always fiery Mayfield’s shoulders?

After all, Mayfield just had one of the best years of his NFL career. Those are great numbers, showing Mayfield still likes to take chances, yet despite learning a new scheme and starting from scratch when it comes to building chemistry with his receivers, he posted the second-lowest interception rate of his career (1.8%).

Mayfield also reached a new career-high in completion rate, but is he really back? Is this still a player who many viewed as possibly the best quarterback in his draft class? Good luck winning that battle, as Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson have surely surpassed him, but if nothing else, Mayfield has repaired his status as an above-average starting QB?

Is he elite? We wouldn’t go that far yet, but the NFL is all about consistency, and we’ve seen Mayfield have strong seasons before, but never consecutively. You won’t find Mayfield near the top of anyone’s QB rankings, but for the first time since 2020, the Buccaneers QB does look like a franchise solution again.

Related: NFL QB Rankings: How do Jared Goff and Baker Mayfield compare?

Jared Goff has reached the peak and seen the valleys of the NFL

jared goff
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When Sean McVay and the Rams essentially gave up on Jared Goff just two years after helping them reach the Super Bowl, the thought was that he wouldn’t be the starting quarterback on the Detroit Lions for very long either. The Rams pretty much paid the Lions to take Goff’s massive four-year, $134 million contract off their hands. This trade not only gave the Lions a new starting QB to replace Matthew Stafford, but it also landed Detroit two first-round picks (one became Penei Sewell).

The expectation was that the Lions would see what they had in Goff, while keeping their eyes peeled for a new franchise quarterback to replace the one they just traded to LA. Yet, that’s not what happened at all.

Instead, Goff went from being this QB who threw too many interceptions and lost too many fumbles to one that could lead the Lions, yes, the Lions, to a top-ten offense for the first time since 2011. Then, Goff did it again, becoming the first Lions team to have a top-ten offense in yards and points for two consecutive seasons since the 1964 team did so, for the third year in a row back then.

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Do the Lions still need to find a better quarterback? The eye test says no, but that didn’t prevent GM Brad Holmes from making Hendon Hooker the 68th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft anyway. Considering Goff has just one year left on his contract, with a cap hit of $31 million in 2024, the Lions will have to think about their future soon enough, likely during this upcoming offseason.

Should they pay Goff as one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL? He’s certainly no Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, Lamar Jackson, or Joe Burrow. But Goff has also been really good. Could Detroit really move on from the QB who’s helped them get their first playoff win in 32 years? It’s hard to imagine such a scenario right now.

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Here’s another one: has Goff lived up to his potential as a former No. 1 overall pick? My opinion is that Baker Mayfield has not, even if he is still an above-average NFL starting quarterback. But what about Goff? If Mayfield is above average, where does that place the Lions QB?

Goff has been playing some of the best football of his NFL career. He’s a top-ranked QB but not quite at the same height as the quartet of elite players at his position. As far as living up to his draft status? You may find other players from the same draft class who have been consistently better, but what Goff is doing right now suggests he’s living up to his full potential.

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