Fantasy Fallout: Baker to the Panthers


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Fantasy Fallout: Baker to the Panthers

After months of speculation, Carolina finally pulled the trigger. Baker Mayfield is a Panther.

The Browns are receiving just a conditional 2024 draft pick (fourth or fifth round) in return and they had to eat $10.5M of Mayfield’s 2022 salary. The Panthers picked up the remaining tab ($4.85M).

A year after GM Scott Fitterer horrifically overpaid for Sam Darnold by sending a second, fourth, and sixth rounder to the Jets, he attempts to atone for his mistake with what is in a vacuum an extremely low-risk move for Mayfield.

The coaches will call it a camp battle between Mayfield vs. Darnold, but there is no way that HC Matt Rhule can actually give Darnold another chance. This is Mayfield’s time.

So, how much does this move the needle for the Panthers? Are they a contender now in a weak NFC South?

The markets see it that way.

The Panthers have shifted from +1400 to win the NFC South to +1000. They’re also slightly more likely to make the playoffs (now +400; was +500) and their win total is on the move (now 6.5; was 6.0).

So, by the numbers how big of an upgrade is Mayfield over Darnold?

To give us the biggest sample possible – especially considering both quarterbacks have dealt with injury-filled seasons as of late – I compared the careers to-date between Mayfield and Darnold:

Mayfield vs. Darnold (since 2018)
Passer rating87.876.9
Yards per attempt7.36.5
Touchdown rate4.8%3.3%
Turnovers per game1.071.2
Sack rate6.5%7.6%
On-target throw rate *non-screens*69%70%
On-target throw rate *unpressured*75%75%
aDOT *non-screens*11.2 yards10.7 yards
Throws beyond sticks%46%40%
Throw% of 15+ yards23%20%
On-target throw rate, 15+ yards58%52%

Mayfield’s traditional career numbers aren’t eye-popping, but it is clear that he’s a respectable upgrade over Darnold. However, I find the accuracy and throw distance data super compelling.

Mayfield and Darnold have near identical accuracy when you take away layup throws (screens) and judge them just on non-pressured throws. But, Mayfield is far more aggressive – leading the duo in average depth of target (aDOT), throws beyond the first down sticks, and percentage of throws that traveled at least 15 yards in air.

Baker is also far more accurate when throwing deep downfield and therein lies why it’s time to get a little bit more excited for D.J. Moore and these Panthers pass catchers. A healthy Baker Mayfield will provide a higher ceiling, largely because he’s far more aggressive and accurate when throwing downfield than Darnold.

D.J. Moore’s big chance

Much like Allen Robinson, we’ve been waiting for D.J. Moore to be freed. Mayfield is no Stafford, but we’ve got to take what we can get.

Among all wide receivers, Moore ranks 12th in yards per game (75.0) and he’s 21st in receptions per game (5.2) since 2019. And despite the constant change at quarterback, Moore has been really efficient. Over the last three years, his 1.96 receiving yards per route run ranks 14th-best out of 81 qualifying WRs.

However, we haven’t seen the true breakout season for Moore just yet largely because he’s been limited in the touchdown department. He’s never scored more than 4 TDs in a season.

With Mayfield under center, it should make the Panthers more efficient as a whole – leading to more red-zone trips and scoring opportunities. The other good bit is that Carolina’s offense is extremely concentrated right now between Moore, Christian McCaffrey, and Robby Anderson. We know where the ball is going when that trio is healthy because the Panthers still don’t really have a reliable tight end and Terrace Marshall is still a work in progress after an injury-riddled rookie season.

For what it’s worth, Moore’s role really hasn’t changed much at all in all of McCaffrey’s missed time either. He’s averaged 9.0 targets per game when CMC is active and 8.9 targets/game when CMC plays.

On that note, this is just another reminder that McCaffrey is the gold standard in fantasy football when healthy. These are his average fantasy points per game split out by the Panthers starting QB (since 2018):

  • With Cam Newton (19 games) – 23.7 FPG

  • With Kyle Allen (15 games) – 28.2 FPG

  • With Teddy Bridgewater (5 games) – 23.6 FPG

  • With Sam Darnold (4 games) – 19.0 FPG

Please stay healthy, CMC.

Graham Barfield blends data and film together to create some of the most unique content in the fantasy football industry. Barfield is FantasyPoints’ Director of Analytics and formerly worked for the NFL Network, Fantasy Guru, and Rotoworld.