Ohio State WR Garrett Wilson could be pick to boost Baker Mayfield, Browns' passing attack

Shortly after being drafted by the Browns in 2018, Baker Mayfield was back in Austin, Texas, watching his high school alma mater's spring practice.

One player in particular stood out to Mayfield -- wide receiver Garrett Wilson, who by then had committed to play for Ohio State.

“Garrett sticks out like a sore thumb,” Mayfield said then to Lake Travis coach Hank Carter, who won a Texas state title with Mayfield as his quarterback in 2011. “I don’t think Lake Travis has ever had a specimen like that.”

After the practice, Mayfield sought out Wilson jogging off the field. “What did you have, like an eight-touchdown day today, I guess?” Mayfield asked him. “You did good.”

Now, the two former Lake Travis stars could have the opportunity to reunite, this time as teammates in Cleveland.

At the NFL combine in Indianapolis this week, both general manager Andrew Berry and coach Kevin Stefanski reiterated their plans to move forward with Mayfield as their starting quarterback despite an injury-plagued and disappointing 2021 season. And to help Mayfield bounce back, they might very well be targeting a big-play, potential No. 1 receiver, like Wilson, with the 13th overall pick.

“It would be great to link up with Baker,” Wilson told reporters Wednesday from the combine, when asked about the possibility of going to Cleveland. “Baker is someone that did all the things that I wanted to do. Being a Heisman winner, that’s stuff you can only dream about, so watching him ball when I was younger, that was really awesome. Having that opportunity to maybe have that happen again, that would be awesome.”

At Ohio State, Wilson himself was, well, awesome, on the way to earning All-American honors as a junior last season. He finished with 70 receptions for 1,058 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns for a passing attack that ranked No. 3 in the country.

The Browns, having released receiver Odell Beckham Jr. last November and facing the prospect of potentially moving on from wideout Jarvis Landry for salary cap reasons this offseason, must bolster their receiving corps after featuring one of the least effective passing offenses in the league last year. Mayfield playing better after undergoing offseason surgery to repair the torn labrum in his left, non-throwing shoulder that he injured in Week 2, is obviously paramount.

But getting him another go-to weapon at receiver will be key, as well.

In his most recent mock draft, ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay has the Browns taking Wilson with that 13th pick. And though USC's Drake London and Arkansas' Treylon Burks figure to be among the other wide receivers that Cleveland could target in the first round, Wilson seems to be a perfect fit for the Browns.

“Wilson would immediately give Mayfield a playmaker,” McShay wrote. “His best trait is body control, as he can adjust to passes in the air, but he is also a sudden route runner with fantastic speed and acceleration.”

The Browns witnessed in their own division what a receiver of that caliber can do for an offense as a rookie. Especially one that already has a rapport with the incumbent quarterback.

With their first pick last year, the Cincinnati Bengals drafted Ja'Marr Chase, who starred with quarterback Joe Burrow at LSU. Not only did Chase earn NFL offensive rookie of the year honors, he elevated Cincinnati’s offense to another level as Burrow's top target, as the Bengals stunningly advanced all the way to the Super Bowl.

“I feel like I could be one of those dudes who is the next one of those guys,” Wilson said. “The type of thing where they have a big role their rookie season and play a big role in their team getting better. Watching that, that’s what I want to be, that’s what I plan on being and that’s what I train to be.”

Despite finishing 8-9 last year, Cleveland still boasts a roster that remains capable of making its own playoff run. Getting Mayfield back on track -- with the help of a familiar face from Lake Travis -- could be one path to doing just that.