DENVER — The Denver Broncos coached Baker Mayfield before the Browns did and came away believing his future is bright.
Broncos coach Vance Joseph and his staff guided the North Team last January at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, and Mayfield headlined the roster as the Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback from the University of Oklahoma.
Mayfield's intelligence and work ethic came to the forefront throughout the practice week preceding the game.
It's the reason Joseph insists he isn't surprised Mayfield has experienced success as a rookie.
"When you first meet Baker, Baker had a maturity about him," Joseph said last week during a conference call with Browns beat writers. "He had a confidence about him, and everyone gravitated towards it at the Senior Bowl, even the coaches. You just knew this guy was saying, 'You know something? I can do this.' And you can feel it every day you're around the guy.
"His football IQ, it was high. It was high from day one after the first install. I knew he was going to be successful. The questions he asked, as far as how to play from installs, I got to watch his work ethic for three or four days. He went to the field an hour early every day to work on taking snaps, to work on his footwork under the center.
"So those things that he didn't do in college, he did a great job of working on for three straight days an hour before we started practice. I knew the work ethic was there, the smarts were there, the confidence was there, and once I watched him practice, the arm talent was there. He was kind of a can't-miss prospect after that."
Browns General Manager John Dorsey obviously agreed. Dorsey actually fell in love with Mayfield well before the Senior Bowl, then watched him check off boxes throughout the pre-draft process and ultimately selected him first overall on April 26.
"The sky is the limit for Baker because of the work ethic," Joseph said. "It's a hard league, so when guys come into this league and they don’t continue to work on their craft and get better and better each year, that's when guys kind of take a dip. I don't see that with Baker.
"I see Baker wanting to be great. I see Baker being a great leader, and his natural work ethic will take over and he'll continue to get better and better each year. He has gotten better and better by the game, so imagine this guy next year at this time and how good he can be."
Von Miller, the Broncos' six-time Pro Bowl and three-time All-Pro edge rusher, called Mayfield "an elite quarterback in the making" during a conference call last week.
"Made all of the throws, he can run the ball and he can extend the play," Miller said. "I can see why the Browns took him No. 1. He is a franchise quarterback."
Another No. 1 pick
Miller, the second overall selection in 2011, knows what it takes to be dominant pass rusher in the NFL, and he said he sees those qualities in Browns defensive end and 2017 No. 1 overall choice Myles Garrett.
Miller and Garrett both went to Texas A&M.
"I pay attention to Myles Garrett a lot," Miller said. "He's an Aggie. I followed his college career. I'm following his pro career, too. He's a man among boys out there. He's bigger than the tackles. He's quicker than the tackles. He's just a beast. He's going to have a long, healthy, sack-filled career.
"He's very quick off the ball for his size. He's bigger than the tackles. He's able to dip and lean. He has the lean and ability to get down low on the tackles. If he gets a good jump and he leans — and he can pretty much do every pass rush move in there — it's pretty much over for the tackle. Even if he doesn't get a great jump, it's hard. When he gets the jump on the ball, it's over."
On the eve of their showdown against the Broncos, the Browns had a special guest attend their team meeting Friday afternoon at their downtown Denver hotel: NBA legend Kobe Bryant.
The team’s players and coaches listened to Bryant speak and participated in a question-and-answer session with the former Los Angeles Lakers star for about an hour, Browns spokesman Peter John-Baptiste said.
The Browns heard Bryant explain how he approached his career and competition.
Ron Brewer, the Browns’ manager of player engagement, set up Bryant’s appearance.
There were no surprises among the Browns' inactives Saturday night. They were rookie cornerback Denzel Ward (concussion), cornerback Phillip Gaines (knee), rookie guard/center Austin Corbett (foot), rookie left tackle Desmond Harrison, quarterback Drew Stanton, defensive end Chad Thomas and defensive tackle Carl Davis.
Two Browns starters who were listed as questionable to play entering the weekend were active: defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (biceps) and center JC Tretter (high-ankle sprain).
For the Broncos, cornerbacks Chris Harris (fibula) and Isaac Yiadom (shoulder), safety Su'a Cravens, outside linebackers Shaquil Barrett (hip) and Shane Ray, defensive end DeMarcus Walker and guard/center Nico Falah were inactive.
Cornerback Tramaine Brock started in place of Harris, a three-time Pro Bowl selection.
The NFL fined Browns safety Jermaine Whitehead $10,026 for unnecessary roughness last week against the Carolina Panthers. He was penalized on a kickoff in the second quarter.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his Browns coverage at www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ByNateUlrich and on Facebook www.facebook.com/abj.sports.