The trade has finally come down. For weeks after the news of Deshaun Watson being traded to the Cleveland Browns, the speculation was always about what the Browns were going to do with Baker Mayfield. Rumors spread about possible teams being interested in Mayfield like the aforementioned Panthers and Seahawks. The latter team was recently dismissed by Ian Rapoport on the Pat McAfee Show:
While the Seattle Seahawks may have missed out on a potential upgrade at QB (because let’s face it, Drew Lock and Geno Smith aren’t great options. Just ask @USOpen on Twitter), the Panthers weren’t going to heading into the 2022 season with Sma Darnold at the helm again after that experiment flopped last season after a 3-0 start.
Now the trade is in the books as the Panthers traded a 2024 conditional 5th-round draft pick for the now-former Cleveland Browns quarterback, per NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero and NFL Insider Ian Rapoport.
Mayfield’s New Fantasy Outlook
While there won’t be any arguments about Baker Mayfield being a clear upgrade over Sam Darnold, Mayfield himself still sits in the mid-range among quarterbacks. Mayfield finished the QB26 among quarterbacks last season throwing just 17 touchdowns to 13 interceptions averaging just 12.9 fantasy points per game. It’s also worth noting that Baker was playing through shoulder issues too, dealing with multiple non-throwing shoulder injuries. Despite that, to start the season, Baker actually started pretty well.
Over the first six games of the 2021 season, Baker averaged a healthy 97.8 passer rating as well as throwing for 245.7 yards per game. Baker was on pace to throw over 4,000 yards and 17 touchdowns if he kept that up. Mayfield would also lose his number one wide receiver in Odell Beckham Jr after he was released from the team in the middle of the season.
Now with the Carolina Panthers, Mayfield has a chance to restore his image. Mayfield now gets wide receivers Robby Anderson, DJ Moore, and Terrance Mitchell to throw to, and arguably one of the best running backs in the league when he can stay on the field in Christian McCaffery. Moore in particular stands out above the rest at receiver. Despite the issues at quarterback last season, Moore still managed to finish as a Top 20 receiver, finishing as the WR18 averaging 14 fantasy points per game, over 1,157 receiving yards, and four touchdowns. If Baker can manage to stay healthy this season, Moore would be the biggest beneficiary to have some stability at the quarterback position.
Baker Mayfield in a Matt Rhule-styled offense may also be a good situation too. Before falling completely apart last season, Sam Darnold actually looked like a top-tier quarterback. Over the first four games of the season, Darnold averaged nearly 300 yards a game (297.3) and was on pace to throw for over 5,000 yards. Crazy, right? But wait, there’s more. Over that four-week span, Darnold was a top 5 fantasy quarterback, coming in at fifth among quarterbacks averaging nearly 25 fantasy points per game and completing 67.8% of his passes.
While Mayfield himself may not be an appealing fantasy prospect himself, his presence can certainly ease the minds of fantasy managers that were looking to target the Panthers pass-catchers like DJ Moore. Christian McCaffery is nearly quarterback-proof in all honesty but it’s just a matter of whether he can stay on the field or not because of all the recent season-ending injuries he’s had to this point. As stated earlier, Mayfield could benefit from being in a new system similar to what Sam Darnold was able to experience from the outset of the 2021 season too. In all likelihood, Mayfield will be available on waivers for fantasy managers and hold QB2 status in two-quarterback/Superflex leagues.
Mayfield will have to show that he can be consistent and effective with the Panthers this season prompting fantasy managers in Redraft leagues to look elsewhere for a starting quarterback.