If Baker Mayfield woke up feeling dangerous last season, he’s going to wake up tomorrow feeling like the baddest man on the planet following the news that Odell Beckham Jr. has been traded to the Cleveland Browns. In a move that sent social media into a melting pot of hot takes, ecstatic Browns fans, and despairing Giants fans, the Browns are now the default favorites to win the AFC North in 2019. Imagine writing that line in March last year.
While John Dorsey got this trade over the line, we must doff our caps (and pour one out) for Sashi Brown, whose Moneyball philosophy gave the Browns the ammunition and cap space to assemble what is now ostensibly one of the most potent offenses in the NFL. I am cautious about heaping too much praise on the Browns for swindling Dave Gettleman out of OBJ, however. The personnel decisions he has made over his career makes it likely that even Condoleezza Rice would have pulled off this deal.
So what does this mean for Baker Mayfield in dynasty? Well, he is my undisputed QB2, just behind Patrick Mahomes. To explain why let’s first take a look at his rookie season and then his outlook for 2019 and beyond.
A Record-Setting Rookie
In case you hadn’t heard, Baker Mayfield broke Peyton Manning’s long-standing record for the most touchdown passes thrown in a rookie season. Not only that, Baker did it in 14 games, only starting after Tyrod Taylor was injured against the Jets. Unfortunately for Baker, he still had a Hue Jackson shaped millstone around his neck, which was finally cut free after Week 8 of the season. Running back coach Freddie Kitchens was promoted to head coach and offensive play caller, and that is when Baker took off, throwing for 2,254 yards and 19 TDs at a 68.44% completion rate. Extrapolated over 16 games, those numbers look pretty impressive (per Pro Football Reference):
What makes these numbers exciting for fantasy is how Baker accumulated these stats. He wasn’t a byproduct of short quick passes, screens, and dump offs to running backs. Everything points to Mayfield winning in a vertical, fantasy-friendly scheme (per Matthew Berry):
- 8.57 yards per attempt (2nd in the NFL)
- 4.75 deep completions per game (1st in the NFL)
- 9.13 deep attempts per game (2nd in the NFL)
- 52.1% completion percentage on deep passes (5th in the NFL)
This philosophy won’t be changing any time soon, and I expect Mayfield to not only maintain this pace but improve in 2019.
Once Freddie Kitchens was hired as the permanent head coach, he appointed former Tampa Bay OC Todd Monken to the position in Cleveland. This is particularly exciting for fantasy, as Monken’s offense produced plenty of fantasy points in 2018, regardless of whether it was Ryan Fitzpatrick or Jameis Winston under center:
Todd Monken is CLE’s new OC. In TB last year, Monken’s Bucs were 6th in pass/run ratio, 2nd in pass yards per attempt, 1st in pass yards per game. Both Fitzpatrick and Jameis were in top-3 for an average depth of target.
— Adam Levitan (@adamlevitan) March 13, 2019
Patrick Mahomes was far and away the best QB in fantasy last season, finishing with an incredible 399.7 points. If you combine both Fitzpatrick and Winston’s total points, they would have finished as the QB2 with a total of 331.7 points. That would have been the QB1 in 2017 too. Patrick Mahomes truly broke the mold, but Monken is one of the most fantasy-friendly coordinators in the NFL.
Monken will bring a pass-first offense and will continue to allow Baker to throw it down the field to one of the best home run threats in football.
The Supporting Cast
Now, this is where things get particularly exciting. In 2018 Jarvis Landry was operating as the primary receiver in the Browns offense. Landry is a very good receiver, particular in the short areas, but his game has limitations. He is not a deep threat. His career aDOT tells us this (2014-2017 on the left and 2018 on the right):
Landry was still fairly effective despite a change in his usage, but he did post his worst fantasy finish over the past four seasons (WR19). His aDOT improved to 11.70, a significant increase from his previous three seasons of 6.43 but that didn’t result in greater fantasy output. Square peg, meet round hole.
Antonio Callaway, Rashard Higgins, and Breshad Perriman rounded out the wide receiver group that Baker had to work with. A solid corps, but nowhere close to elite.
Whichever way you slice it, Beckham is an elite talent. Both NFL Next Gen Stats and Matt Harmon’s Reception Perception work not only to quantify what we see on Sundays in the box score but also in our fantasy lineups.
Odell Beckham in #ReceptionPerception:
– Owns the top two success rate vs. man coverage scores in series history with 80.1% in 2014 and 79.8% in 2018.
– Never finished below the 98th percentile in success rate vs. press coverage.
Elite separator. Here’s his 2018 route chart 👇 pic.twitter.com/D9YyO0i8Pi
— Matt Harmon (@MattHarmon_BYB) March 13, 2019
Those elite traits have translated into fantasy success, despite playing the majority of his career with a sub-par Eli Manning and his depleted arm strength:
Even when Beckham has missed time through injury, his consistency ensures he is a top tier option on a per game basis. Now he gets an upgrade at QB. Baker is a talented deep ball thrower, and OBJ will continue to be a fantasy stud. Interestingly, his career aDOT is 11.70. Exactly the same as Landry in 2018. If he takes over the primary receiver role, with Landry returning to his more traditional slot role, Baker is going to challenge for the QB1 spot in 2019. I haven’t even mentioned David Njoku at TE, or the backfield of Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, and Duke Johnson.
The Cleveland offense has an embarrassment of riches and a coaching staff who will get as creative as possible to squeeze every last drop of production it can get out of it. While I am buying almost any piece of this offense if the price is right, Mayfield is my primary target. He is currently being drafted as the QB5 per the latest MFL ADP, but you’d better act fast if you want to buy him. He’s my QB2, a cheaper option than Patrick Mahomes, but an option I expect to return similar levels of production in 2019 and beyond.
So what do you think about Baker in dynasty? Are you a believer and buying? Or are you using this hype to get out from underneath him? Let me know on Twitter @FF_DownUnder.