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Broncos were absolutely right about Baker Mayfield

Vance Joseph experienced Baker Mayfield's big arm and intelligence firsthand at the Senior Bowl in January. Glenn Andrews/USA TODAY Sports

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- There were five quarterbacks selected in the first round of last April's draft, and on Saturday night, the Denver Broncos will face the top pick in the Cleveland Browns' Baker Mayfield.

And when the Broncos break down Mayfield's game, there will be a lot of things -- a lot of throws, a lot of how Mayfield functions in and out of the pocket -- that will look awfully familiar.

Denver's decision-makers spent plenty of time around Mayfield, even before the Browns did. After last season's 5-11 finish, the Broncos staff -- even as head coach Vance Joseph was replacing several assistants -- made its way to Mobile, Alabama, in January to direct the North team, which included Mayfield, at the Senior Bowl.

"Baker, he was a great guy to be around," Joseph said. "Very confident, obviously, he's a winner."

The North's quarterbacks for that week of work were Mayfield, Josh Allen, Luke Falk and Tanner Lee. When April rolled around, Mayfield, Sam Darnold, Allen, Josh Rosen and Lamar Jackson were all selected in the first round of the draft, with Mayfield going No. 1.

The Broncos have faced Darnold in Week 5 -- a 34-16 Jets victory -- and Rosen in Week 7 -- a 45-10 Broncos win.

"That process, especially with quarterbacks, there's no question it helps when you're looking at those players," Broncos president of football operations/general manager John Elway put it. "You not only see them work on the field, but in the meeting rooms with them, get to know them as people. You can see how they handle information and how they deal with people, two big components of the job. And then you see how they take all of that to the field."

And in that regard, Mayfield put on quite a show that week in January. He was easily the most comfortable running the offense the Denver coaches had installed.

Joseph and his staff consistently gave Mayfield high marks for how he took what the coaches had gone over in the meetings and put it into action on the practice field. Of all the quarterbacks on both the North and South teams, Mayfield showed the most consistency with the widest variety of throws.

Something Joseph said was again quite pronounced Monday morning when he dove into some early work on the Browns' offense.

"He had great arm talent," Joseph said of Mayfield. "For a smaller quarterback, he has a big arm, he plays to that. I watched a couple of his games [Monday] morning, he's playing really well right now, he's comfortable, he has a good roster around him, this roster is loaded. ...[Rookie running back Nick] Chubb is playing out of his mind. He's got some weapons around him and he's playing with great confidence right now."

Mayfield has started the past 10 games for the 5-7-1 Browns, and worked through the team's changes at head coach and offensive coordinator, when Hue Jackson and Todd Haley were fired just before Halloween. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams was named the Browns interim head coach and Freddie Kitchens was promoted to offensive coordinator.

The Browns are 3-2 in those five games as Kitchens has set Mayfield loose. Mayfield has completed 73 percent of his passes in the five games for which Kitchens has called plays and thrown 11 touchdown passes to go with four interceptions.

Mayfield might have had his most accurate day as a pro Sunday, when he finished Cleveland's victory over the Carolina Panthers by completing 18 of 22 passes for 238 yards and a touchdown. Of the four incompletions in the game, video showed three were drops by Browns receivers.

That is trending the wrong way for the Broncos' defense, which has surrendered five 300-yard passing games this season. Four of those came to three of the league's marquee passers -- Patrick Mahomes (twice), Philip Rivers and Ben Roethlisberger -- to go with Sunday's 332 yards from the 49ers' Nick Mullens.

The Broncos (6-7) will be without cornerback Chris Harris Jr., a three-time Pro Bowl selection who suffered a fractured fibula in Cincinnati, and his replacement, rookie Isaac Yiadom, suffered a separated right shoulder in the loss to the 49ers. Cornerback Tramaine Brock is still a question mark with a rib injury that has kept him out of the past two games.

That's all on the docket for the Broncos as they get reintroduced to Mayfield. Asked Monday if he is at all surprised at how quickly Mayfield has acclimated himself to the job of franchise quarterback, Joseph said simply:

"Not at all, he was very, very sharp from a football perspective, but his arm talent was special, really special."