NFL player prop of the day: Baker Mayfield is more than a handoff specialist for Browns

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The Cleveland Browns have two star running backs and perhaps the best offensive line in football, with a coach that leaned on the running game early in the season. They have a reputation as a running team. 

That's not undeserved, but it's also not entirely accurate. That could open up a betting value. 

Late last season, when coach Kevin Stefanski was more comfortable with Baker Mayfield, the Browns threw more. They actually threw at a rate that would have put them in the top 10 of all NFL teams over a full season. 

And Mayfield was very good when the passing game opened up. 

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) had a strong finish to last season. (AP Photo/David Dermer)
Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield (6) had a strong finish to last season. (AP Photo/David Dermer)

Baker Mayfield finished strong

Mayfield's passing total prop at BetMGM is 3975.5. That's a relatively low number in the current NFL. There's no reason Mayfield can't hit the over. 

Over the last five games of the regular season, Mayfield averaged 38.4 passing attempts and 291 passing yards per game (38.4 passing attempts per game would have been 614 over 16 games, which would have tied for eighth-most in the NFL). That was a big increase from 26.7 attempts and 191.6 yards per game for Cleveland's first 11 games. In two playoff games that trend continued to an extent, with 35.5 passing attempts and 233.5 yards per game. 

Mayfield threw for 3,563 yards last season, and that was despite barely throwing it early on. If we adjust Mayfield's 2021 BetMGM prop total for a 16-game season, it's about 3,741 yards. Anticipating a small leap of less than 200 yards isn't too much to ask. Mayfield should hit 4,000 yards in a 17-game season now that his coach has settled in. 

Last season was an odd one. Stefanski had no offseason to work with his players. Early on he leaned heavily on the run game, which makes sense when you have Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. When it got later in the season, he trusted Mayfield more. There were some game scripts that dictated more passing, but there's also no reason Stefanski won't give Mayfield more opportunities to start this season. Mayfield played very well down the stretch. In Cleveland's last 10 regular-season games, Mayfield had 15 touchdowns, two interceptions and a 102.1 rating. Odell Beckham Jr. is back too. Even if there could be something to Mayfield taking off last season once he didn't have to feed Beckham anymore, Beckham is still a great talent and helps the passing offense. And Mayfield's passing yards. 

Stefanski isn't necessarily a run-first coach. He'll run a lot because that's what the Browns do best, but he's a smart play-caller who will devise an offense with all of his team's strengths in mind. After the way last season ended, Mayfield is one of those strengths. Use the Browns' reputation as a running team to your advantage, and take the over for Mayfield's passing yards. 

Previous BetMGM player prop breakdowns

Dak Prescott 4,775.5 passing yards

Derrick Henry 1,525.5 rushing yards and 13.5 rushing TDs

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