Fantasy football news: How Baker Mayfield trade impacts Panthers’ Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, Robbie Anderson
Another quarterback trade shook up both the NFL and fantasy football world on Wednesday when the Panthers acquired Baker Mayfield from the Browns.
Casual NFL fans may not get too excited about this move. It’s almost certainly a quarterback upgrade for the Panthers but will it make them anything more than a potential wild-card contender? Probably not.
That said, fantasy football owners will have a much higher interest in this trade. Mayfield isn’t necessarily a guy you’re looking to roster just yet — at least not after how last season went — but his presence will have an impact on some of the Panthers’ other prominent skill-position weapons.
Most notably, the addition of Mayfield will give D.J. Moore and Robbie Anderson a new pass-catcher to work with for the third straight offseason. Christian McCaffrey’s production may also be impacted by Mayfield when evaluating his standing among fantasy football’s top running backs.
Below is a breakdown of what fantasy football owners can expect out of McCaffrey, Moore and Anderson following the Mayfield trade. No matter how you look at it, they all probably deserve stock-ups.
How the Baker Mayfield trade impacts Christian McCaffrey
Mayfield’s presence should have a positive impact on McCaffrey, as teams won’t be able to focus as much on the Panthers’ running game with an improved passing game.
Even while playing through two shoulder injuries last season, Mayfield completed a higher percentage of his passes (60.5) than Darnold (59.8) and averaged 7.2 yards per attempt compared to Darnold’s 6.5. What does that mean? Mayfield will stretch defenses a bit more vertically with his arm, so McCaffrey may have a bit more running room than he did with Darnold.
In four games with Darnold last season, McCaffrey was productive but didn’t realize his full rushing potential. He averaged just 3.8 yards per carry in four games with Darnold compared to 5.7 yards per carry in three games without him. Granted, some of that came because McCaffrey was paired with the hyper-mobile Cam Newton, but still, the 1.9 yards per carry difference cannot be ignored.
If there’s one concern with the McCaffrey/Mayfield fit it’s that the Browns didn’t target their running backs much in 2022. Kareem Hunt saw the most targets among backs with 27, but that was still good for just eighth-most on the team.
If you add Hunt’s 27 targets those of Nick Chubb (25) and D’Ernest Johnson (25), you get 77. That’s a respectable amount, but McCaffrey was on a 100-catch pace over a 17-game season with Darnold. So, for McCaffrey to reach his full potential, Mayfield will need to check down a bit more often than he has. If he doesn’t, he will still be productive, but he may not be the same PPR stud he has been in the past.
That said, the Panthers will certainly find ways to get McCaffrey the ball both on the ground and in the air. He ultimately gets a stock up from this and should be a strong RB1 — if he can stay healthy.
How the Baker Mayfield trade impacts D.J. Moore
Some of Moore’s fantasy owners may be sweating a bit in wake of this trade. After all, Mayfield didn’t have good chemistry with Odell Beckham Jr. and only targeted his No. 1 receiver 5.7 times per game last season before he was released. Will Moore meet the same fate?
That seems highly unlikely. Moore has become one of the steadiest fantasy producers at receiver over the last few years, and his numbers have been eerily similar despite him working with several different starting quarterbacks including Darnold, Newton, PJ Walker and Teddy Bridgewater.
Moore has posted between 1,157 and 1,193 receiving yards each of the last three seasons and has posted exactly four touchdowns each season. The biggest variable for him has been his receptions, which have ranged from 66 to 93.
Still, Moore is a receiver that commands and demands targets. He has gotten at least 118 in each of the past three seasons and Matt Rhule will surely look to keep him heavily involved after he did solid work with Darnold last year.
For those still worried about Moore becoming Beckham, don’t be. Beckham was more of a downfield receiver for the Browns; his average distance of target came 11.5 yards from the line of scrimmage last season. Meanwhile, Moore makes plays at all three levels of the defense which is why his average distance of target came at 10.1 yards.
Why is that important? Mayfield completed only 44.9 percent of his passes beyond 10 yards last season while completing 78.6 percent of those within 10. So, it will be easier for Mayfield to complete passes to Moore at his shorter average distance than it was for him to connect with Beckham further down the field.
How the Baker Mayfield trade impacts Robbie Anderson
Robbie Anderson was supposed to have a solid year in 2021. He already had chemistry with Sam Darnold and was coming off a 1,000-yard season during his first year in Carolina.
Instead, Anderson had, arguably, his worst professional season. He struggled to connect with Darnold throughout the season and wasn’t able to consistently produce on the field.
In Anderson’s 12 games with Darnold, he averaged 6.8 targets per game. However, those translated into just three catches and 29.4 yards per game. He was a bit better with Newton at quarterback, averaging 4.3 catches and 41.5 yards per game, but both were big steps down when compared to his success with Bridgewater in 2020 (5.8 catches per game, 70 yards per game).
Mayfield’s performance last season profiles similarly to what Bridgewater did in Carolina during the 2020 campaign. Like Mayfield, Bridgewater was hyper-accurate in short-yardage situations (87.4 percent on passes within 10 yards) but had his share of issues with downfield accuracy.
Anderson has deep speed, but like Moore, he is a more-than-capable receiver underneath. As such, he should do well with Mayfield and could work himself back into the WR3 conversation after being nothing more than a bench stash in 2021.