In 2020, Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield took a sizeable step forward in his progression. As such, he recorded his best season yet. Should Mayfield be targeted in drafts with a double-digit round ADP, or does his 2021 fantasy football outlook outweigh any potential upside?
Baker Mayfield fantasy outlook for 2021
Despite the tumultuous offseason and limited time to learn the new system, Mayfield took a step forward in 2020, even if fantasy managers did not see the benefits.
Mayfield completed 62.8% of his passes for 3,563 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. While never mistaken as a dual-threat quarterback, Mayfield rushed 54 times for 165 yards and a touchdown in 16 games. The biggest takeaway was how much Mayfield improved his decision-making after throwing 49 interceptions in his first two seasons.
Mayfield ended the 2020 campaign as the QB17, averaging 16.0 points per game (4 points per TD). While a welcome improvement, it highlighted a lack of league-winning upside.
Mayfield was a QB1 in only 31.25% of his contests (5 of 16). In contrast, he was QB18 or worse in 10 games. In fact, he scored 20+ points in only four games. Still, Mayfield will never be the type of QB who is asked to win games for Cleveland. He attempted 33 or more passes only four times in 2020.
While I am a Mayfield fan, this hurts his overall fantasy outlook in 2021. When you see numerous other QBs attempting 40+ passes or exploding as rushing threats, Mayfield just seems…safe. However, I don’t know if that is what you want in 1QB leagues.
Baker Mayfield’s fantasy projection
It would be unrealistic to say that I think Mayfield could be a top-five passer in 2021. It’s just not in the Browns’ nature as an offense under Kevin Stefanski.
That is not going to change because, as the saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” The Browns have the best offensive line in football and the best backfield duo with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt. They will win by running the ball and with their defense. All Mayfield needs to do is throw 27-33 times a game and not turn the ball over.
Nevertheless, having a healthy Odell Beckham Jr. back in 2021 does raise the ceiling of Mayfield along with an additional year to gain familiarity with the playcalling. After watching Mayfield take a step forward in an offense catered to his skill set (play-action and getting out of the pocket), I believe he will enjoy a career season in 2021.
I project Mayfield to complete 338 passes (64.8%) for 4,104 yards, 29 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. Adding in 196 yards and 2 scores on the ground, Mayfield would set a new career-high total with 18.1 ppg (289.7 total).
Baker Mayfield’s ADP in 1QB and Superflex leagues
I don’t hate players. I only hate ADPs. Fantasy football is all about value. They might be my favorite player in the NFL, but if the opportunity cost outweighs the performance, then I have to pass.
If we examine Mayfield using Sleeper’s ADP for 2021 redraft leagues, he is coming off the board as pick 135.2 (1QB) and 67.7 in Superflex formats as the QB18.
Why you should draft Mayfield in 2021
As I said earlier, it is all about value when I look at a player and consider their fantasy outlook. For Mayfield, I would seriously consider him in 2021 leagues.
Mayfield is going nearly three rounds after Justin Fields and is 51.5 picks behind Trevor Lawrence, both of whom have never played a snap. I am taking Mayfield ahead of both rookie QBs and think he presents a far better value.
Contrary to popular belief, not every rookie QB will produce a Justin Herbert season. Sure, Fields was my QB2 in this class, but is he even the starter? I am not even going to go into the fact that Deshaun Watson is going 41.1 picks ahead of him.
Will Mayfield be a top-12 QB for fantasy? Likely not, given the volume and lack of rushing upside. But is his fantasy outlook better than the QB18? Absolutely.
Mayfield is the perfect QB2 for superflex or as a streaming option in 2021. The Browns are legitimate AFC contenders, and Mayfield will be a critical component of a team that no one will want to face. Thus, I have no issue having Mayfield plant a massive OU flag on my fantasy team for 2021.
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Tommy Garrett is a writer for Pro Football Network covering the NFL and fantasy football and a member of the FSWA (Fantasy Sports Writers Association). You can read more of his work here and follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.