Fantasy Reaction: Baker Mayfield Traded to the Carolina Panthers (Fantasy Football)
Former Cleveland Browns QB, Baker Mayfield, has been traded to the Carolina Panthers for a 2024 conditional 5th-round pick. Per Ian Rapoport, the trade is still pending a physical, and both the Panthers and Browns will split the financial commitment to make it happen. Mayfield, who was selected with the #1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, played four seasons in Cleveland and now gets a fresh start after the team brought in Deshaun Watson to be their franchise QB this off-season. What are the ramifications for the main fantasy options in Carolina? Let’s dive in.
The obvious loser in this situation is Sam Darnold, who played in 12 games for Carolina last season. Under the combination of Darnold and P.J. Walker last season, the Panthers’ offense was anemic in all facets of the game ranking 29th in points per game, 30th in total yards, 29th in passing yards, 31st in passing TD, and dead last in yards per play. Last season, Darnold’s 6.2 yards per attempt ranked 36th among 44 QBs who registered at least 100 dropbacks, and over the last two years, Darnold’s putrid 2.3% TD rate is among the worst in football. Certainly, any improvement in QB play could mean better things for D.J. Moore and company.
Enter Baker Mayfield, whose career in Cleveland has been up and down. After setting the single-season passing TD record for a rookie back in 2018 and taking the Browns to the AFC Divisional Round just two years ago, Mayfield battled multiple shoulder injuries in what was a lost season for the Browns in 2021. Still just 27 years old, Mayfield now has a chance to resurrect his career with the Panthers. We know Baker Mayfield‘s fantasy upside is limited, but his numbers at least suggest he’s an upgrade for the Panthers’ offense as a whole.
Mayfield’s career 7.4 yards per attempt and 5.0% TD rate are head and shoulders better than that of Sam Darnold with a 6.6 career yards per attempt and 3.7% TD rate. Despite Mayfield’s lack of elite fantasy upside, he now becomes a starting QB in 2QB leagues. In terms of the primary fantasy options in Carolina, Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, and Robby Anderson all get a bump in terms of their 2022 outlook and fantasy upside.
Prior to injuring his shoulder in Week 6, the Browns averaged 28.3 points per game, 6th best in the NFL, and back in 2020 when the Browns went 11-5, they ranked 11th in yards per play, 16th in total yards per game and 13th in points per game. While Baker himself is unlikely to be anything more than a weekly streaming option, we know he has a proven track record of being able to support a functional offense, which is a lot more than Sam Darnold has been able to say in his pro career.
Christian McCaffrey‘s role in this offense doesn’t necessarily change as he’s still an elite pick in Round 1 of fantasy drafts. The biggest winners here from a fantasy perspective are obviously D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson. In 2020, Mayfield ranked 3rd in completion rate on pass attempts 20+ yards down the field (minimum 20 attempts). Meanwhile, Darnold ranked 31st in deep-ball accuracy last season. Furthermore, Mayfield’s 62% career completion rate compared to Darnold’s 60% rate also suggests that the quality of targets these wide receivers will see should be better in 2022.
When looking at how these two WRs performed in 2021 with Darnold under center, it’s not difficult to see the path for a better fantasy season for both in 2022. Anderson finished with 30.5 receiving yards per game, the lowest ever among the 1,056 WRs with 100+ targets in a season. Just 31% of his targets were deemed catchable. As for D.J. Moore, he was 4th in the NFL in unrealized yards last season. Only Justin Jefferson and Stefon Diggs saw more air yards last season, yet Moore finished the season 11th in receiving yards. In other words, there’s plenty of untapped potential if Baker Mayfield can provide better QB play in 2022.
For more on the Carolina Panthers, be sure to check out our premium projections, rankings, and player profiles in the Ultimate Draft Kit!