After months of speculation, the Browns finally found a trade partner to take Baker Mayfield off their hands. The Browns sent Mayfield to the Panthers in exchange for a conditional fifth-round pick, and the Browns agreed to pay $10.5 million of Mayfield’s 2021 salary. What are the fantasy football ramifications of Mayfield joining the Panthers?
But before we begin, let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Mayfield is the Panthers’ starting quarterback. The Panthers made this move because they know Sam Darnold has no business starting on an NFL team. They probably regret picking up Darnold’s fifth-year option last season. But hey, let’s give them a little credit for not tripling down on a mistake.
Fantasy impact of the Mayfield trade on DJ Moore
One of the main reasons Odell Beckham Jr. wanted out of Cleveland last season was because Mayfield couldn’t get him the ball. On the surface, this seems bad for DJ Moore. However, this has to be viewed as an upgrade from a fantasy perspective.
In 2021, Moore saw a 28.4% target share, the fifth-highest total in the league. The Panthers don’t have much in the way of target competition. Moore is their clear WR1. He and Christian McCaffrey will see the bulk of Mayfield’s targets.
I simply cannot fathom how Mayfield isn’t at least a mild upgrade over the quarterback play Moore has had to endure thus far in his career. Despite his QBs, Moore has posted three consecutive seasons of at least 1,150 receiving yards. During that span, Moore has been remarkably durable, missing a grand total of just two games in his career.
Mayfield is not about to turn Moore into Davante Adams. He can, however, help Moore improve upon his 14 PPR fantasy points per game he averaged over the past two seasons. Mayfield’s presence raises Moore’s ceiling from a mid WR2 to a low WR1. In all likelihood, Moore is a mid-WR2 this season, which is still an improvement upon his low-WR2 finish from 2021.
Fantasy impact of the Mayfield trade on Robbie Anderson
The Mayfield trade sparks a debate over whether the biggest change Anderson underwent this offseason was his quarterback or going from the “y” to the “ie” in his first name. These are the hard-hitting questions we try and answer here.
On a serious note, Anderson’s 2021 made very little sense. Although his target share dropped from 26.3% in 2020 to just 19.3%, it doesn’t explain his absurdly low 48.3% catch rate. That was bound to improve this season regardless of who played quarterback. Going from Darnold to Mayfield will only help.
In Cleveland, Mayfield supported two top-36 wide receivers in 2019. Mayfield has certainly struggled as of late, but he’s already proven capable of supporting two fantasy-relevant wide receivers. This gives Anderson hope for a rebound season.
Anderson is not going to return to the 14 ppg level he was at in 2020. Yet, he certainly should be better than the 8.1 ppg he produced last season. Consider Anderson a WR4 with a little bit of upside entering the 2022 campaign.
Fantasy impact of the Mayfield trade on Christian McCaffrey
Ultimately, the only thing that really matters with McCaffrey is his health. Whether it’s Cam Newton, Teddy Bridgewater, or Sam Darnold, McCaffrey remains a dominant force in the passing game.
McCaffrey averaged about a 23% target share over his first three seasons in the NFL — the three seasons where he stayed healthy. Last season, Mayfield targeted running backs at a respectable 21% clip. While it’s certainly not the highest rate in the league, it’s above average. And the reality is personnel largely dictates where targets go. McCaffrey’s ability will command a higher target share.
Fantasy managers should view McCaffrey exactly how they always have. He’s the best running back in fantasy football … when he’s on the field. Whether you draft McCaffrey this season comes down to your confidence level in his ability to stay healthy. If he’s on the field, Mayfield will throw him the ball.
What about Mayfield’s own fantasy value?
Mayfield has been a bit unfairly maligned over the years. He’s better than he gets credit for. With that said, he definitely hasn’t played at the level we’d expect from a former No. 1 overall pick.
Mayfield’s best fantasy season came as a rookie in 2018 when he averaged 17.9 ppg. That was good for just a mid-QB2 finish. In the modern NFL, 18 ppg isn’t what it used to be. If your fantasy quarterback can’t get you 20 ppg, you might as well stream the position.
Can Mayfield be a 20 ppg fantasy quarterback? Probably not. It’s not like he lacked weapons in Cleveland. Sure, they weren’t great last season, especially with Beckham leaving and Landry battling injury. However, Mayfield had a healthy Beckham and Landry in 2019 and only managed 15.5 ppg.
Moore, Anderson, and McCaffrey are at least as good as what he had in Cleveland. Mayfield could experience a renaissance in a new environment. We’ve seen changes of scenery benefit quarterbacks in the last. I just wouldn’t go viewing Mayfield as someone to target as your fantasy quarterback.
Consider Mayfield a QB2 to open the season. He shouldn’t be drafted in standard-sized 12-team leagues, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he popped up on the streaming radar at various points throughout the season.