We’ve all known for a while, or at least suspected, that Baker Mayfield was not going to be a member of the Cleveland Browns by the time we got to Week 1. On Wednesday we found out he’d been traded to the Carolina Panthers (pending a physical), and the move is about the best anyone involved could have asked for.
For Mayfield, he gets a fresh start with a talented cast of weapons around him led by Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore. He shouldn’t have any trouble beating out Sam Darnold for the starting role, which means this landing spot gives him one of the best opportunities to go earn a second contract when he becomes a free agent. While he should be freed up to throw more than he was under Kevin Stefanski, we don’t expect him to be a prolific enough passer to make up for the fact that he’s never run for more than 200 yards in a season. As a pocket passer who isn’t elite, Mayfield’s value will be reserved for leagues where you can start multiple quarterbacks until he proves otherwise.
Just don’t let that make you think this move has no Fantasy implications. The implications are huge for Moore, in particular.
Moore’s 3,535 receiving yards since the start of 2019 ranks fifth in all of football behind only Cooper Kupp, Davante Adams, Stefon Diggs, and Travis Kelce. But Moore has been stuck outside the top 12 Fantasy wide receivers in each of those seasons because of the fact that he’s never topped four touchdowns. Considering he’s been in the league for four seasons, you may be tempted to believe that low touchdown total is something he now owns. But that would be very unfair considering the Panthers haven’t thrown more 17 touchdown passes in a season in the past three years.
Some quick math shows you just how beneficial this could be. The Panthers threw 599 passes last season. If we use that as a benchmark and plug in Baker Mayfield’s 4.8% career touchdown rate we would expect 28.7 passing touchdowns for the Panthers this year. Over the past three seasons, Moore has accounted for 25.5% of his team’s scores through the air. If that math holds, we have a projection of 7.3 touchdowns for Moore in 2022.
Three more touchdowns last year would have lifted Moore from WR17 to WR12. In 2020 it would have moved him from WR25 to WR18 (he missed a game). In 2019 he’d have gone from WR15 to WR9. And this isn’t even accounting for a likely yardage boost considering Mayfield has been 10% better in terms of yards per attempt than any quarterback Moore has played with besides Teddy Bridgewater. Now, it’s not so hard to see why Moore vaulted into my top 10 wide receiver rankings as soon as I heard this news.
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The impact isn’t as drastic for the rest of the Panthers, although it does make the case stronger for Christian McCaffrey as the No. 1 pick. I had McCaffrey fourth behind Jonathan Taylor, Kupp, and Austin Ekeler. Now I see it as a three-way logjam in full PPR between Taylor, McCaffrey and Kupp depending almost entirely on how risk averse you are.
Deeper down the roster, Robby Anderson becomes a sleeper in double-digit rounds again, while Terrace Marshall is someone you should make sure is stashed in your Dynasty league. I wouldn’t forget about Tommy Tremble in tight-end premium leagues either.
That Mayfield makes this big of an impact for the Panthers is more about how bad Cam Newton, Kyle Allen, Teddy Bridgewater, and Sam Darnold have been the past four seasons than it is about how much we like Mayfield. Still, it isn’t that hard to imagine Mayfield having a Ryan Tannehill-like renaissance in Carolina. He has far better pedigree than Tannehill and his weapons certainly aren’t lacking.
As for the Browns, this makes things even riskier for everyone involved if Deshaun Watson is indeed suspended for the year. Amari Cooper could be a top-12 wide receiver with Watson, but he wouldn’t crack our top 30 with Jacoby Brissett. Even Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt could suffer if the offense is so anemic that they can’t approach the red zone. The Browns were not satisfied with Mayfield’s play, and maybe justifiably so, but they’ll miss him if they have to play a season with Brissett under center.