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Baker Mayfield Madness - Top-Five Fantasy QB Already???

There has been so much buzz about the Cleveland Browns being the breakthrough team of 2019 this offseason. That is understandable, as the team won five of its final seven games and showed a lot of promise after a poor first half of the 2018 season. Adding Odell Beckham Jr. has only fueled more strong optimism.

Baker Mayfield started 13 games as a rookie, and the overall numbers certainly showed a lot of potential. He finished as just fantasy QB16, but he did have 27 TD passes and threw for 3,725 yards. But he also had 17 total turnovers.

Mayfield had four three TD games, all after Week 9. He also had three 300-yard outings. He also had five games with less than two TD passes and a pair of three-interception outings late in the season. Overall, Mayfield was undoubtedly promising, but he did make some mistakes and there is definitely going to be more challenges ahead. But some fantasy types are getting caught up in the maelstrom of incredible support for the Browns and it seems to be translating into inflated expectations for Mayfield as a Fantasy QB. Yeah, I like what I saw too last year, but the kid still has more to prove.

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Keeping It Real

If everyone else outside of the league is expecting a lot from Mayfield, don’t you think his opponents are? Opposing defensive coordinators, especially in his division, are spending a heavy chunk of their offseason dissecting film on Mayfield and preparing for him in 2019. Mayfield is going to be under more pressure to build on his rookie campaign at the outset of the new campaign.

Defenses will have adjusted some to Mayfield when the new season opens, and that will be a challenge for him. I am not saying he cannot successfully overcome the possible new challenges he will face, but this is just his second season in the NFL, and he has more to prove. Ranking him highly would seem to be assuming that he will flourish for sure in 2019. I can’t assume that early in his career. He has to earn a higher ranking, not just be handed it in the preseason. I need more convincing, he still hasn’t started a full season in the NFL yet.

If anyone wants to rank Mayfield as a back-end Top 12 Fantasy QB based on what they saw last season and the addition of Beckham I am not going to vehemently debate with them. I just don’t have him there, as he and Kyler Murray are just outside my early 2019 Top 12. They can’t just be handed a Fantasy QB starting slot in my eyes, though. It must be earned. That is the way I have always approached rookies and very alluring second-year players. Show me first, then get the higher rank. I have to reserve some skepticism when a young passer will naturally endure some bumps early in his career.

But some rankers will be less conservative than I am, and they will be more firm and insist Mayfield will arrive as a solid Fantasy starter in 2019. Of course, I respect that. We Fantasy analysts often disagree. If someone wants to rank Mayfield say, ninth, that’s not crazy to me.

High stakes players may also be more aggressive than me and I understand and respect that too. When you play in a high stakes format, you tend to be much bolder in pushing guys up on your board.

So, I certainly see and respect ranks that will be higher than mine. But when they get into a certain territory, I indeed am stunned. That is what is happening with Mayfield so far. In advance of the 2019 season, some experts I really respect are willing to put him into or near top-five territory at QB. That is just waaaaay too aggressive and bold.  If it’s not buying into the Browns hype, which it may not be, it’s a case of just overrating the kid too early in his career.


The Signs Are Everywhere

The first sign of Mayfield Madness came in a dynasty startup mock the RotoBaller crew recently took part in. Mayfield was the fourth quarterback taken, ahead of both Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson. Age was certainly a consideration there but Mayfield ahead of Rodgers? Then there was a recent two-QB mock where I participated, the first four QBs off the board were Patrick Mahomes, Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers. No surprises there yet in the first round. Deshaun Watson went early in Round Two. Matt Ryan next in the middle of the round. But then with the eighth pick of the second round, Mayfield was selected. Knowing the owner very well personally, I gave him a hard time in the chat room and on social media thereafter.

Mayfield over Russell Wilson? No way, the Seahawks QB is a consistent top-five contender at the position and a dual threat. Over Jared Goff, who can regain top form with Cooper Kupp back? No. I will also take a healthy Carson Wentz and an annually underrated Philip Rivers over Mayfield. Even Ben Roethlisberger without Antonio Brown should still be pretty darn good. All of those guys have already shown me more at a consistently high level than Mayfield. I prefer to rank more proven players higher. There’s much less dealing with the unknown.

Sure, we have to look ahead, and the addition of Beckham can be a significant boost. You could debate me that Mayfield could or should be Top 8 or 9. We all have unique perspectives. But as a professional Fantasy analyst, I have to make firm calls and stand behind them. A second-year QB who has not started a full season yet and can still be error-prone does not get my preference over more proven, solid QBs yet.

But then, in our now-in-progress early half PPR Rotoballer mock draft, things definitely got more out of hand. Mahomes was the first QB off the board in the fourth round, Andrew Luck went in the fifth, and then I took Aaron Rodgers in the sixth. Then, IT HAPPENED.


Mocking Mayfield's ADP

Baker Mayfield was the FOURTH QB selected in the Too Early Half-PPR Mock!

I reloaded the screen several times. It had to be a mistake.

But no, there was Mayfield going ahead of Deshaun Watson, another more versatile QB with a superstar WR who is better than Beckham. Watson could be Top 3 this year if his other WRs remain mostly reliable. He went ahead of Ryan, who was the No. 2 Fantasy QB last year and has no apparent reasons for a drop-off. Heck, Calvin Ridley should be even better this year and Ryan’s top two pass-catchers could be better than Mayfield’s. He also went ahead of Wilson and everyone else I mentioned, naturally in the previous draft.

I have all the professional respect for Richard King possible, and I welcome any rebuttal and a friendly debate. But to take Mayfield as the FOURTH QB off the board is a major and overly risky leap of faith in my eyes. There is no way that he has earned that sort of lofty draft positioning yet. NO WAY. It’s so stunning I am having trouble typing right now. There is just no reasonable explanations I can conceive why he would suddenly leap into the Fantasy elite this season. Going from No. 16 overall to No. 4 overall is significantly overrating the impact of Beckham, among other items.

If anyone else rates Mayfield that high, they are simply overrating him based on much of what we have seen yet. Maybe I am underrating him at No. 14, but to push him inside the Top 5 is inflating expectations way too much. I have seen it way too many times in pro football where a less experienced passer finishes a season strong and then struggles out of the gate the next year. Play it safe at QB. Take the superstar if he drops to say, the sixth round, or just wait until later and get a solid guy like Goff or Rivers. Don’t reach for an inexperienced guy who has more to prove when there are more established players at his position available and you can win with them.

Let’s just calm down about Cleveland. In real life, and Fantasy Football.

Too Early Mock? Too Early for Mayfield Mock should be the new title.

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