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What Does the Baker Mayfield Trade Mean for D.J. Moore, Christian McCaffrey, and other Panthers?

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It's finally happened: the Browns have traded former number 1 pick Baker Mayfield. They didn't exactly get much in return so it is clear they simply wanted him to move on.

We knew this was coming since the team traded for Deshaun Watson. Mayfield wasn't content to sit back and be the backup QB for the Browns, and once Cleveland signed Jacoby Brissett as their insurance for the impending Watson suspension, it was even more clear that Mayfield would be sent somewhere else.

On Wednesday, we found out where, as he was shipped to Carolina for a conditional fifth round pick. How will this move impact the fantasy football landscape?

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Does Baker Mayfield Have Fantasy Value?

Well, he's sure got a heck of a lot more than he had on Tuesday. It sounds like the Panthers intend to do the whole "oh, the starting job is a competition" thing for the time being, but let's not be naive here: Mayfield is the Day One starter for Carolina. Sam Darnold isn't beating him out for this job:

Look, I got fooled by Darnold for a little bit at the beginning of last season, to the point where I wrote an article about how good he was playing. After that decent start where Darnold completed 67.81% of his passes, he crashed. Darnold became who he has always been: an inaccurate, turnover-prone guy who should be a backup.

It's not like Mayfield lit the world on fire in 2021, as he completed 60.5% of his passes with 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, but Mayfield has an important thing over Darnold, which is that he has one really good season on his resume. There's no guarantee that Mayfield bounces back to his 2020 form, but we should probably revisit how solid that season was. Mayfield completed 62.8% of his passes that season, with 26 touchdowns and just eight interceptions. He finished with 3,563 yards and an adjusted yards per attempt of 7.7.

Digging into some advanced numbers from PlayerProfiler, we can get an even better idea of what Mayfield looks like at his best. Despite the Browns throwing the fifth-fewest passes of any NFL team that year, Mayfield was 12th among all QBs in air yards. From an efficiency perspective, he was sixth in true passer rating and ninth in QBR. His completion percentage in certain situations was really good: sixth in deep ball completion percentage, and eighth in both play action completion percentage and red zone completion percentage.

Still, even at his best, Baker wasn't elite or anything. He was 37th in accuracy rating and 18th in fantasy points per drop back. The overall signs don't point to Mayfield suddenly becoming a top QB, but they still point to him being comfortably better than Darnold.

All of this is a really long way of saying that Baker Mayfield will be fine in Carolina. The Panthers attempted 35.2 passes per game last season, while the Browns attempted 30.6. An increase in his usage should be good for his overall numbers, assuming Matt Rhule continues to rely on the pass like he did last year. Some solid weapons in Carolina (more on those in a minute) make Mayfield a solid QB2. I'll likely stream him when I have the chance when there's a plus matchup for him, and he could help us out during bye weeks.

 

How Does Mayfield Impact the Rest of the Panthers?

Let's just take a brief look at how the fantasy value of various other Panthers is impacted by this.

Sam Darnold

Darnold wasn't on your fantasy radar before except as a third QB in Superflex leagues. Now, he's off of it entirely.

Matt Corral

Corral may have ended up starting some games later in the season after Darnold's struggles became too much for the Panthers. That scenario is gone now. Barring an injury, Corral won't see the field. This also is a hit to his dynasty value, though there's no guarantee that the Panthers view Mayfield as a long term solution.

Christian McCaffrey

McCaffrey projected to be an elite running back if healthy with Darnold and he projects to be an elite running back if healthy with Mayfield. The Panthers were third in the NFL in targets to running backs last season while the Browns were in the middle of the league, with around four percent fewer targets going to the position. I think that difference has less to do with who was throwing the ball and more to do with playcalling/personnel.

D.J. Moore

Alright, here's where we start to get more interesting results. D.J. Moore has been really consistent the last three seasons with his numbers, finishing within a 36-yard range each year and catching four touchdowns each season.

A dig deeper shows that last season was actually not as good for Moore as the two prior ones. He played two more games than he did in 2019 and 2020, only to finish with his fewest yards since his rookie year. He dropped from 2020's 79.5 yards per game to 68.1 and had a catch rate under 60% for the second year in a row.

With Mayfield throwing him the ball this season, I expect to see the best season of Moore's career. He'll finally get to that 1,200-yard mark. He'll catch more than four touchdowns. He'll take advantage of Mayfield's accuracy in the short passing game and will finish as a fantasy WR2.

Robbie Anderson

This really depends on what you think about Mayfield's deep ball. Last season, Mayfield was eighth in air yards per attempt, but 18th in deep ball completion percentage at 37.9%. In 2020, he was 10th in air yards per attempt and sixth in deep ball completion percentage.

Mayfield will throw it deep, which is good for Anderson. He's probably a boom/bust WR4 option, with the amounts of "booms" and "busts" depending on which version of Mayfield we get.

 

What Does This Mean for the Browns?

There's really not a lot to say here. Baker Mayfield wasn't going to start for the Browns. By trading him for a draft pick, nothing about the makeup of the team changes.

I guess technically this move guarantees that Jacoby Brissett will be the guy when/if Deshaun Watson is suspended but how much value Brissett has in fantasy is going to depend on what happens with Watson, so there's really no point in trying to speculate on where Brissett ranks in fantasy after this trade. The length of a Watson suspension will determine that.

I suppose it makes Brissett slightly safer to know that the Browns won't be able to bench him for Mayfield? Sure. Let's go with that as our evaluation of the Browns' side of this.



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