Weekly Wrap Up: Baker the new QB in Carolina

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Sweet Home Carolina

The Carolina Panthers sent medium-level shockwaves through the NFL world this week when they traded for former Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. The Browns received a 2024 conditional fifth-round pick and will pay around $10.5 million of his salary. For the Panthers, they’ll pick up the remaining $8 million of Mayfield’s salary this season. He has also agreed to take a $3.5 million pay cut which he can earn back due to incentives. With their backs up against the wall, this exchange is more than what the Browns could’ve asked for. It was clear that no team was going to trade for Mayfield, give up a ton of capital AND pay him $18.5 million. Considering the Browns traded for Deshaun Watson and signed him to a long-term deal, the move was inevitable. There was a small glimmer of hope however when last week Mayfield implied that the door wasn't completely shut on playing for the Browns in 2022. That is all out of the window now as Mayfield will team up (for the time being) with his 2018 draft classmate Sam Darnold. Yes, the top two quarterbacks selected from the 2018 NFL Draft will now reside on the same team, different than the one who drafted them.

There are reports that, due to good spring practices from Darnold, a training camp battle will ensue. You could argue this to be the case since the Panthers will only pay Mayfield backup-quarterback money. What also makes this realistic is the fact that the Panthers gave up crumbs to acquire him. On the other hand, if it were all good in Carolina, the team wouldn't be searching for another quarterback at all, especially after drafting Matt Corral in the third round. I liken this “camp battle” to the one between Cam Newton and Jarrett Stidham entering the 2020 season. In my opinion, the coaching staff has to put this out in the media as a true battle to keep from pissing off the other guy. Based on what we've seen, there's no question that Mayfield will give the Panthers offense a better chance to thrive. Let's quickly pour one out for fan-favorite and former XFL stud P.J. Walker.

The main difference for Mayfield coming into this season will be his offensive line. According to PFF, the Browns had the eighth-best line in 2022. The Panthers are coming into the season having been ranked the second-worst line in football. The Panthers made moves like drafting Ikem Ekwonu and completely renovating the rest of the unit. Currently the lone returning starter will be Taylor Moton, who was the only Panthers lineman to grade out over 67 (77.8) at the right tackle position. The receiving corps will be solid, led by D.J. Moore and Robbie Anderson. While Anderson is coming off of a down year in which he had a career-low 519 receiving yards, Moore has a more solid floor and higher ceiling. Coming off three straight seasons in which he’s gained at least 1,150 receiving yards, this could be his most stable quarterback situation yet. Mayfield hopes to help Moore improve upon his three straight years of only scoring four touchdowns. Christian McCaffrey will serve as Mayfield’s outlet pretty much like he's done for every signal-caller he’s played with. Mayfield had offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum on his non-throwing arm. With a clean bill of health, he’ll have a chance to show and prove that he’s still a franchise quarterback. After finishing no better than QB16 in fantasy entering year five, Mayfield can only be seen as a mid to low-end QB2 at this point.

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Winston on the rise

Jameis Winston is feeling good again. The Saints’ starting quarterback posted a video on his Instagram page this week of him throwing without a knee brace. This is good news for the quarterback who tore his ACL in Week 8 of last season. Up until that point, Winston was having his most efficient season to date as he’d had a 14:3 TD:INT ratio and the Saints held a 5-2 record. While he wasn’t great from a fantasy perspective, Alvin Kamara was still a top-seven fantasy back with Winston under center. Things will change a lot for Winston this season. In 2021, his top three wideouts were Marquez Callaway, Deonte Harty and Tre’Quan Smith. Chris Olave, Jarvis Landry and a presumed healthy Michael Thomas will be huge upgrades at Winston’s disposal. The team has also finally realized Taysom Hill isn’t even worthy of dressing up as a quarterback for Halloween and will play more of a tight end/H-Back role like he’s accustomed to. Another big difference, however, will be the loss of Sean Payton, who retired (for now) from coaching. Long-time Saints offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael was retained by new head coach Dennis Allen. This will give Winston and the Saints' offensive players continuity in the system. With a healthy Winston and all of his weapons, the Saints could continue to be a thorn in the Buccaneers' side in a race for the NFC South title. Expect Winston to make a leap in fantasy as well.

The speedy penguin speaks

It’s not out of the norm for players (especially wide receivers) to speak highly of their quarterbacks. Since being traded to the Dolphins, Tyreek Hill has gone on a praise-Tua Tagovailoa tour. Hill is very confident in Tua, his skills and especially his accuracy. Add Jaylen Waddle mix as he went on the ‘It needed to be said’ Podcast to gush about his quarterback. He let people know that Tua has “been that guy” since his days at Alabama. Seeing how Waddle said these things on Hill’s podcast, it shows the two have already bonded nicely in the wide receiver room. Waddle ended the 2021 season with an NFL-record 104 receptions for a rookie. He coupled that with 1,015 yards and six touchdowns, finishing just outside of WR1 range in fantasy. This season he and Hill will pose massive problems for defenders as they look to help take Tua to the next level.