Baker Mayfield Traded to the Carolina Panthers

by Garrett Ball

The Carolina Panthers have traded for Baker Mayfield! After the Cleveland Browns traded for Deshaun Watson, it was only a matter of time. It took longer than I expected but the Panthers finally pulled the trigger and got Mayfield for a fifth-round pick that can turn into a fourth-rounder. What sort of impact will this have on the 2022 Fantasy Football season?

It's been quite the ride for Cleveland fans over the last few years. Mayfield came in hot as a rookie, then went as high as the QB4 in dynasty leagues, then crashed down in his second year. His third year ended with a lot of promise, only to end up falling again in his fourth year.

And here we are, Baker Mayfield requested a trade after the Browns seemingly failed to get Deshaun Watson. But with a last-minute change of mind, Watson is now the QB of Cleveland. Despite all the irony of Cleveland wanting an "adult in the room" then signing Watson, Baker apparently was not a good locker room presence himself.

A bad season and a souring relationship led to where we are today. Now in Carolina, Baker's first task is to show you how easy it is to switch your Progressive Insurance to a new address. After that, it's taking over as the Panthers' starting QB and turning his career around.

Buf first, a training camp battle with Sam Darnold!

Baker Mayfield Traded to the Carolina Panthers

Baker in Cleveland

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Like I said before, there are a lot of highs and lows in Baker's four-year career. He faced a lot of adversity and did well where others did not. It seemed the Browns had finally hit on a top QB and their problems were beginning to be solved. Cleveland even won a playoff game against division rival Pittsburgh in 2020. Then 2021 happened.

I won't deny last year was really bad. It hurt watching the hope from 2020 and early 2021 only get squashed. Cleveland was 3-1 at one point only to end up 8-9. Not the kind of season Browns fans like myself were expecting.

But how bad was Baker exactly? Adam Lowenstein of BrownsNation.com noted where Baker ranked according to PFF at the end of his four NFL seasons: 11th, 17th, and 8th. But in 2021, his PFF rank fell all the way to 30th. That's not good.

It's likely his injuries played a major part in his slide downward. He suffered a torn labrum and a fractured humerus bone in his non-throwing shoulder. When you get serious injuries like that sometimes all it takes is movement elsewhere in your body for it to hurt. Yet he played through that all year.

The passing game options in Cleveland suffered for it, with Jarvis Landry finishing as the WR54, Austin Hooper and David Njoku were the TE25 and 23 respectively, and Odell Beckham demanded a trade after feeling underutilized.

Nick Chubb was fine as always but his game didn't rely on Baker as much as the others.

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Baker in Carolina

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There is speculation that Baker won't start in Week 1 due to Sam Darnold's contract. As we southerners like to say, that is hogwash. Picking up Darnold's fifth-year option was a gamble on him impressing, and it failed miserably. Matt Rhule is trying to save his job, and Sam Darnold isn't going to do it. Nick Foles was paid $30 million by Jacksonville in 2019 and was benched in favor of rookie Gardner Minshew. Money isn't everything.

I'll be shocked if he doesn't win out because he's the best QB on the roster right now. Assuming that he does win the job, as he should, here's what I think we can expect from the Panthers' pass-catchers and running backs.

D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson (if he doesn't retire) get a boost. Most of that has to do with where Baker is good at putting the ball on target. Through his first three seasons, Baker ranked top 12 in the NFL on deep pass accuracy and fell to 17th in 2021, likely because of his injuries.

Sam Darnold has never ranked higher than 29th in deep pass accuracy.

Baker isn't the most accurate QB, he's actually on the lower end of the spectrum in completion percentage. However, his ability to facilitate big plays matters for Fantasy, and that is something Sam Darnold has shown he can't do.

Mayfield does excel in the short area passing, though. Jacob Kemenker of The Sporting News noted Baker completed 78.6 percent of passes within 10 yards last season. Both D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson hovered around that mark in recent years. All that is to show both guys can excel in the short areas and get open up top for Baker.

Christian McCaffrey should be just fine. I doubt he will have a massive target share as in years past, but it was fair to wonder if he would get the same number of targets anyway with Carolina concerned about his health and keeping him fresh. Cleveland produced top running backs with Mayfield at QB, so I wouldn't despair even if CMC's targets totals go down some. McCaffrey is an incredibly skilled athlete and is a focal point of the offense and should be valued as such.


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