Fantasy Implications: The Baker Mayfield Effect
Is it February? It must be because there is a ton of love going around the fantasy world right now. Particularly for the first overall pick in this years NFL draft, Baker Mayfield. Last night after an abysmal start for Tyrod Taylor, we finally got our first look at the rookie quarterback. He did not disappoint.
The Fantasy Impact of Baker Mayfield
— Cleveland Browns (@Browns) September 21, 2018
The Browns offense looked stagnant the first quarter and a half with Taylor at the helm, but that quickly changed when Mayfield took the field. Mayfield came in hot and heavy with just under two minutes left to play in the second half. After delivering a few strikes to WR Jarvis Landry and TE Davis Njoku, one thing became VERY clear.
The Browns offense just got a whole lot better.
Mayfield went 17-23 for 201 yards through the air and also had a reception for a two-point conversion. Not to be overshadowed by Mayfield’s success, Carlos Hyde was the clear star of the offense as he totaled 23 attempts for 98 yards and two TDs. A clear favorite of Mayfield’s, Jarvis Landry, ended his night with eight receptions for 103 yards. He was also the one who threw to Mayfield on his two-point conversion. Both Antonio Callaway and Rashard Higgins saw a handful of targets as well. Both guys served as good contributors for Mayfield when looking away from Landry.
Albeit a small sample size, Mayfield provided fantasy owners with some good context. From the moment he stepped on the field, he opened up far more of the offense than Tyrod Taylor ever did. Going forward, Mayfield’s presence will demand specific attention from defenses. This likely opens things up for everyone around him. We saw Mayfield fit passes into tight windows against the Jets last night, which bodes well for his receivers. Due to his lack of experience, fantasy owners need to temper expectations for Mayfield right now. However, everyone around him should immediately see a healthy uptick in fantasy production.
Note: Head Coach Hue Jackson has yet to name Baker Mayfield the indefinite starting QB of the Browns as of now. These implications are based on the (logical) assumption he will come to his senses and give Mayfield the starting role going forward.
Landry was the biggest receiving beneficiary of the QB switch last night. The two seem to have a connection. Mayfield delivered a pass in an insanely tight window for a 29-yard reception by Landry. It was late in the third quarter on a critical drive to put the Browns in the red zone.
Key throws from Mayfield to Landry suggest they have more chemistry than we may know. Landry is currently averaging 12 targets per game. Coupling that with his Points Per Opportunity (PPO) chart above and statistics show that Landry could be in line for a huge year with Mayfield under center. With the spark of Mayfield to the Browns offense, fantasy owners should expect low-end WR1 numbers from Landry going forward.
Njoku didn’t garner too much attention from Mayfield last night aside from a few throws. However, one was for a big first down to continue a field goal drive. Njoku was on the field for 80% of snaps but targeted just three times all game.
The game script may have had a small part in his low fantasy production. The Browns were playing catchup and Mayfield looked to his WRs more than anyone else. The targets heat map for Njoku above shows us that he makes his money at short distances and mostly in the middle of the field.
Mayfield clearly liked to open the field up with his receivers. That could mean more room underneath coverages for Njoku to be effective in the coming weeks. We know Njoku is one of the most physically gifted TEs in the league. So, with Mayfield’s willingness to spread the wealth, it’s only a matter of time before Njoku becomes a favorite of his.
The run game improved the most in the emergence of Baker Mayfield. As expected when he signed in the offseason, Hyde is the clear-cut running back to own in Cleveland. What was unexpected was just how much the run game opened up once Mayfield got into the game.
Once Mayfield game out firing through the air, the Jets defense couldn’t stack the box against the run. That’s a trend that could be huge going forward. The results were a season-high in every statistical category for Hyde. The chart above shows fantasy finishes for RB1s under head coach Hue Jackson. Since his time in Cleveland, his RB1 has finished no worse than RB14. With Mayfield potentially taking the reigns of the offense, it looks like Hyde is in line for a great year.
Rashard Higgins & Antonio Callaway
Both Higgins and Callaway have carved out a nice role for themselves in the Browns offense. We saw both guys snag some key catches in last nights game against the Jets. We know that Callaway possesses great speed and will likely continue his role as a deep threat for the Browns. Both guys are locked into starting roles for the Browns offense.
What’s unclear is how they will be used at Mayfield’s disposal. Fantasy implications are unclear at this point but the nod goes to Callaway as the second receiving beneficiary behind Jarvis Landry. With Mayfield’s skill set at QB, both guys have high upside going forward.