CLEVELAND — Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield and New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley were selected first and second overall, respectively, in the 2018 NFL Draft, and by the end of the season, they were, once again, one and two, but this time, in the Rookie of the Year voting.
Barkley won both the fan vote in the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year contest and the Associated Press Rookie of the Year Award, and that did not sit well with Mayfield.
“I’ll use it as motivation, but the more important thing is winning football games,” Mayfield said at the Greater Cleveland Sports Awards ceremony Wednesday night. “It’s more frustrating than anything because it’s Saquon. He’s my guy, so it’s something he can hold over my head forever now, but I’ll use it as motivation, and we’ll be better off in the long run.”
And Barkley wasted little time in exercising his bragging rights after taking home the first-year honors.
“It’ll say ‘Quads’ on it,” Mayfield said of the new chain he will buy Barkley for winning the AP Rookie of the Year Award. “Not ‘Sa-quads,’ but just ‘Quads.’ The two extra letters cost a little bit of extra money, so we’ll stick with just ‘Quads.’”
Barkley rushed for 1,307 yards and 11 touchdowns, and turned 91 catches into 721 yards and four scores during his first year with the Giants. Barkley had 16 rushes and five receptions go for at least 20 yards and seven carries and two catches go for 40 or more yards.
Thirty of Barkley’s receptions went for first downs and he did not fumble once in 16 starts.
No rookie in the NFL’s near 100-year history has thrown more touchdowns passes than Mayfield.
Barkley won the award despite late pushes from Mayfield and Browns running back Nick Chubb.
Mayfield broke the NFL record with his 27th touchdown throw of the season with 3:24 to play in regulation of a 26-24 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in an AFC North Division clash at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on December 30.
After taking over the first-team offense in the second quarter of a Week 3 win over the New York Jets at FirstEnergy Stadium, Mayfield completed 310 of his 486 attempts (63.8 percent) for 3,725 yards and 27 touchdowns against 14 interceptions.
Although Mayfield does not get official credit for the victory over the Jets because he came on in relief of an injured Tyrod Taylor, the first-year quarterback guided the Browns to seven wins and the greatest single-year turnaround in franchise history.
Under the direction of new Browns coach Freddie Kitchens, Mayfield completed 180 of his 263 attempts (68.4 percent) for 2,254 yards and 19 touchdowns against eight interceptions. Mayfield averaged 281.75 yards and 2.375 touchdowns per game with Kitchens calling the plays.
“Build on what we had,” Mayfield said of what the Browns need to do to take the next step. “We had somewhat of a foundation, but to be able to take that next step and do that, to realize what we were doing well, to capitalize on it and grow in that, trust the system, trust your coaching and just make the plays and be comfortable in it.
“I think we’ve kind of knocked off the reputation of the Cleveland Browns. Now, you’ve got to have that mentality of ‘We want to be the best,’ and that’s how you handle every day.”