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It's Baker Mayfield Time -- Get Your Bids Ready


Thursday night's Jets/Browns game started out as one of those ugh, why are we watching this kind of games, the kind that prompted me to ask on Twitter if two teams had ever tied at zero points apiece (answer: not since 1943) and spend large chunks of the first half washing dishes.

Then, Baker Mayfield happened. Browns quarterback Tyrod Taylor left the game with a concussion in the second quarter and Mayfield stepped in, immediately completing three of his first four passing attempts to lead the Browns to a field goal. Cleveland eventually won the game, their first victory since *checks notes* had it only been since the 2016 season? It felt like a decade.

So, what's Mayfield's fantasy value at this point? Do you need to drop all your FAAB money on him? Use that top waiver priority? What should we make of the Cleveland rookie after just over one half of NFL action?

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Baker Mayfield Time!

Baker Mayfield vs. Tyrod Taylor

As someone who had Tyrod Taylor rostered in all of my two-quarterback and superflex leagues, I've got big eyes on Mayfield because he inherits an offense that has a ton of upside -- though slightly less so than before, since wide receiver Josh Gordon is now playing in New England.

Mayfield was 17-for-23 for 201 yards in his first NFL action, leading Cleveland back from a 14-point deficit, which...hey:

Okay, that ESPN stat is one of those "this...doesn't really hold much value" kinds of stats. To really get a feel for Mayfield's value, let's start by comparing his performance to that of Tyrod Taylor. Here is Taylor's passing chart against the Jets:

Three of Taylor's four completions came behind the line of scrimmage. There are two deep throws, but almost everything else was a throw out to the sidelines. Nothing over the middle of the field.

And here's Mayfield's:

Mayfield's chart shows a lot more over the middle, throws that are capable of generating first downs and keeping the offense on the field. While there's no deep shots, it's worth noting that overall deep throws are much less accurate than short and medium throws. Sure, Taylor hit Antonio Callaway on a long touchdown to give the Browns hope in Week 2, but quarterbacks have a much easier time producing yardage with a passing chart that looks like Mayfield's.

Mayfield led the FBS in completion percentage last season at 70.5 percent. He also led in passing yards per attempt, though, showing that not only can Mayfield complete the safe throws but he's also capable of pushing the ball down the field. And look -- as much as I love Tyrod Taylor, his low completion percentage this season was killing the Browns. Mayfield is a rookie and obviously won't be 17-for-23 passing each week, but his upside as a passer far surpasses what Taylor brought to the team.

Mayfield also gets to put the ball in the hands of one of -- if not THE -- most reliable wide receivers in the NFL. While the Browns have moved on from Josh Gordon, they have last year's receptions leader, Jarvis Landry, who caught eight passes for 103 yards on Thursday. Last season, Landry not only led the NFL in receptions, but also in red zone receptions. He finished 15th in receiving yards despite finishing just 101st in air yards. This season, he's sitting third in air yards and fifth in true catch rate. Landry's shown himself to be a versatile receiving threat and gives Mayfield the perfect wideout for a rookie quarterback.

Taylor does have one major advantage over Mayfield, which is his rushing ability. While Mayfield is no slouch as a runner, Taylor has run for 400 or more yards and four or more touchdowns for three consecutive seasons. Mayfield had 21 rushing touchdowns over four collegiate seasons, but he's unlikely to be used on designed run plays as often as Taylor.

Baker Mayfield: The Game Tape

Since half of one game isn't really going to produce too many telling statistical conclusions, let's look at a few of Mayfield's throws from Thursday night:

Mayfield's first NFL completion was over the middle to Jarvis Landry to pick up a first down. He stands strong in the pocket and finds Landry in-between a pair of defenders. It's the kind of throw Taylor wasn't attempting for this team and the kind of play that I want to see a rookie making -- he's not doing too much, but he is throwing into tight-ish windows to his go-to receiver.

A couple plays later, Mayfield hits Landry again over the middle on second and 18. Good drop, good accuracy. This duo is going to spend a lot of time playing pass and catch together this season.

One more Mayfield throw. A good dropback and a pass that goes a little farther downfield here. He drops the pass right into the receiver's hands there.

It would have been encouraging to see Mayfield using the deep ball more against the Jets, but I like the accuracy he displayed and the pocket awareness.

The Fantasy Fallout

Okay, this is the part y'all came here to read, so let's get to it.

What can Baker Mayfield do as a fantasy quarterback? We've seen early successes from young quarterbacks over the past couple of seasons, most notably with Deshaun Watson last year as a rookie and Patrick Mahomes' early record-setting performance this season. Can Mayfield put up numbers resembling that?

Maybe, maybe not -- but when it comes to finding a quarterback with QB1 upside off the waiver wire at this point in the year, Mayfield is almost a must-grab player. If you've been starting Jimmy Garoppolo, for instance, you should feel comfortable spending at least 15 percent of your FAAB money or a high waiver claim on him. Maybe it doesn't work out, but if not you can find affordable quarterback play for cheap still. You can't find a player with Mayfield's upside in an offense with weapons like Jarvis Landry, David Njoku, and Duke Johnson Jr. on the wire, though. Take the risk. Do it.

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