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One year ago today, Baker Mayfield called his shot

INDIANAPOLIS -- There were no softballs.

One year ago today, Baker Mayfield was hit with the question right away as he stepped behind the microphone at Podium 1 inside the Indiana Convention Center.

What would it mean if the Browns took you with the No. 1 pick? Could you succeed in a place where many of the previous quarterbacks couldn't?

"That would be a chance to play football, I'd love that," Mayfield said. "First things first, they'd get a winner. If anybody's going to turn that franchise around, it's going to me. They're close, they're very close, they've got the right pieces they just need that one guy and quarterback make the difference."

It's the closest thing to "calling your shot" the NFL Combine has seen in years.

The Browns believed Mayfield would follow through on his pledge, so they grabbed him with the No. 1 selection. Three games into his rookie season, Mayfield led the Browns to their first win in 18 games. He weathered the storm through the first half of the year and broke out in a big way over the final eight games, finishing his rookie season with 3,725 yards and a NFL rookie record 27 touchdowns.

His presence at the most important position in football, coupled with the numerous other moves that helped the Browns go from zero wins to seven in 2018, has made this a much different NFL Combine for the Browns, who went from having the first and fourth overall picks last year to the No. 17 selection in 2019.

"We all know it's a quarterback-driven league and you have to have certain pieces in place to move that team forward and it just so happens to be the quarterback position," Browns general manager John Dorsey said Thursday. "So you first and foremost have to get that position right, regardless if it's trade or it's draft or it's unrestricted free agency and then you build your team around that."

Dorsey had more than an inkling Mayfield would be his selection at No. 1 at this time last year, but he wanted the rest of the people around him to come to the same conclusion on their own. An important part of that process was Mayfield's brief interview with the Browns at the Combine. It set the table for his daylong visit to Berea a few weeks later.

"He's mature beyond his age and it naturally comes to him and the good ones it naturally comes to them. You could feel his presence in the 15-minute interview," Dorsey said. "The most impressive thing is we brought him in-house and had the six-hour meeting with him. The offensive coaches went through the progressions of the playbook and just tried to see the depth of his knowledge and his ability to retain and spit it back out. He's pretty sharp."

That was evident in Mayfield's memorable media session at the Combine, where he provided plenty of more answers that turned into proclamations.

Would he be willing to be the backup?

"First things first, whatever team I go to, I'm not going to settle for a backup job, I've never been like that and I never will, I'm going to push that person in front of me," Mayfield said. "What it comes down is the best man's going to win, I know that, but everybody has a role on the team and if you're not pushing those guys around you to be better, you're not doing it right.''

What did he want to show teams at the Combine?

"Biggest thing is showing I'm ready to be a franchise guy. I'm ready to help anybody out, just want to play the game. To get a chance, that's all I've ever asked for, it's all I've asked for now and I'm going to make the most of it once I get there.''

How would his leadership translate to an older locker room?

"That's not cockiness, it's just confident. Everybody in that locker room has earned that place in the locker room, those guys are trying to feed their families. But I'm not going to act like I've got it all figured out … I've always been the first one to say my mistake and we need to get better.''

Browns coach Freddie Kitchens had just started as Cleveland's running backs coach when he arrived at the 2018 Combine. The most important thing he learned about Mayfield throughout his rookie season couldn't be displayed at an event like this.

"What makes Baker special is his competitiveness, his intelligence," Kitchens said. "Leaders in life in football and everything, you look at a leader and gain confidence. That's being a leader. People look at Baker and gain confidence. That's what you can't judge out here on this football field."

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