Anyone not living under a rock knows by now about the Panthers’
trade for disgruntled Browns QB Baker Mayfield, setting up an
“open competition” in the words of Carolina GM Scott Fitterer.
Most people don’t believe that, but the truth is neither Darnold
nor Mayfield has done much recently to generate much confidence
in their ability to carry a team. More likely, this competition
will come down to who does more to lose it than win it.
For Darnold, the issue is turnovers. Interceptions, fumbles and
bad decisions have dogged him throughout his career. It’s
the result of poor mechanics and a rampant gunslinger mentality,
leading to untimely and usually game-breaking mistakes. He has
thrown 52 career interceptions; at least 11 in each of his four
NFL seasons, and 24 total over the last two seasons. You can’t
win that way – in fantasy or IRL.
It's important to note that the measurables, natural ability
and athleticism are there. Darnold surprised the entire league
with his running ability early in 2021 (5 TD runs in his first
four games), he has a strong arm and has shown flashes of accuracy,
especially when throwing on the run. He also has to be in the
right system with the right guys around him. With RB Christian
McCaffrey sharing the backfield with him for the first four games
of 2021, Darnold turned in three 300-yard passing games and accounted
for 10 total TD’s (5 pass, 5 rush) with just three interceptions.
It’s in there, he just needs to show more consistency.
But as we know, with the arrival of Mayfield, he may be out of
time. He’s got to win the job to even have a chance to be
a low end QB2 streaming option, and that’s probably a reach.
Most people assume that Mayfield is the presumptive starter heading
into the season. That’s a fair assumption. If you’re
happy with Sam Darnold as your quarterback, why spend resources
on a veteran, former No.1 overall pick at the same position? But
the truth is, the capital expended on Mayfield wasn’t all
that much, and the team has publicly stated that they are in no
rush to extend Baker beyond his current deal. Doesn’t sound
like a slam dunk to me.
Like Darnold, Mayfield is a gunslinging playmaker who never believes
the play is dead. The result is often a forced play and a turnover.
While Mayfield has thrown 92 TD’s to Darnold’s 54,
he has had a better supporting cast. He also has thrown 56 INT’s
and fumbled 27 times, both more than Darnold.
He’s a talented, but erratic passer, coming to a new team, playing
for his fourth head coach in five seasons. He’s also coming off
an injury-riddled season. He should be given credit for that.
But he should not be given the job. Until he wins it, he’s nothing
more than a longshot streaming option.
Whoever ends up playing quarterback for the Panthers is going
to want a healthy Christian McCaffrey with him in the backfield.
The do-it-all back has the talent to be considered the overall
RB1 in fantasy drafts when at full strength, especially when you
consider his skills as a receiver. However, he’s played
just 10 games over the last two seasons due to a litany of injuries
– ankle, shoulder, thigh, hamstring, and ankle again. Carolina
is expecting McCaffrey to be ready for the start of training camp,
but their plan doesn’t include much action. He’ll
have an altered (reduced) practice schedule, he won’t play
in any preseason games, and there has even been talk of moving
him to slot receiver. He had 37 catches in just seven games in
2021, so that doesn’t seem like such a bad plan, and would
immediately make Sam Darnold or Baker Mayfield a better quarterback.
Last year, Darnold was one of the top scoring QB’s in the
NFL with McCaffrey on the field. Not so much when he wasn’t.
In the end, you have to decide if 2022 is McCaffrey’s bounce
back year, or if the stereotypical wear and tear has begun for
the RB. If he’s healthy, he’s an RB1 in all formats.
Hubbard had a chance to solidify the Panthers’ RB room
with a strong performance in place of the injured Christian McCaffrey
as a rookie in 2021. It didn’t play out the way he probably
dreamed it would. He averaged just 3.6 yards per carry and had
just 25 catches in 17 games, averaging less than 7.0 yards per
catch. There’s a chance he could make a big leap from year
one to year two. Many rookies do. But there’s also a chance
he could be reduced to a committee role, even if McCaffrey goes
down again. The signing of veteran D’Onta Foreman doesn’t
seem like a vote of confidence in Hubbard. He’s not a fantasy
option out of the gate.
Foreman, who spent much of the early part of his career fighting
through injuries, is coming off his best season as a pro with
the Tennessee Titans in 2021. He replaced Derrick Henry when the
franchise back went down due to injury and made the most of the
opportunity. He led the team with 566 yards in nine games, averaging
4.3 yards per carry and posting three 100-yard games.
Should McCaffrey miss time, it’s more likely that Foreman
would be the next man up before Chuba Hubbard, but the two could
be asked to share the load. Foreman is a strong handcuff for McCaffrey,
but not a fantasy play until he gets on the field in a big way.
Over the course of the last three seasons, Moore’s QB’s
have included Kyle Allen, Cam Newton (not the MVP version), Will
Grier, Teddy Bridgewater, P.J. Walker, and Sam Darnold. It hasn’t
exactly been easy sledding for receivers in Carolina, yet Moore
has continued to produce with three straight 1100-yard seasons.
There are those who think Baker Mayfield at QB will raise Moore’s
level. I’m not sure that’s the case, but I’m
not sure it matters. Moore has proven he can play with anybody.
This is a dynamic playmaker who can create separation with his
speed and short area quickness, is an elite hands catcher who
makes one-handed grabs look easy, and is a QB’s dream with
his run after catch ability. With improved QB play, upgrades along
the O-line, and Christian McCaffrey back on the field, Moore is
a lock WR2 and could even rise to WR1 status in deeper formats.
Anderson is coming off a horrendous 2021 season. I suppose, as
with all the Panthers’ skill players, we could blame that
on suspect QB play. But guys like D.J. Moore have risen above
this and made things work. Anderson has not. He’s a former
deep threat without a deep threat QB in Carolina, and if I’m
being honest, even at his best, I found him to be inconsistent.
A lot of people are painting Baker Mayfield as the new savior,
but he doesn’t necessarily bring the skill set that’s
going to fix what ails Anderson.
He's talented, and he’ll flash occasionally, but he was
also talking about retirement at one point this offseason, and
if you’re talking about retirement, you’re thinking
about retirement, which is no way to play football in the NFL,
real or fantasy. I don’t see big things on the horizon.
I’m staying away.
Big, strong, and fast, Marshall can align anywhere on the field
and can be a dangerous red zone threat because of his size and
competitiveness. He led LSU’s 2019 national championship
team with 13 touchdowns, and that team featured Justin Jefferson.
Unfortunately, none of those skills showed up during Marshall’s
inconsistent rookie campaign. He didn’t record five catches
in any game and didn’t catch a single touchdown. But this
guy is talented and a tough competitor and I think if there’s
a potential breakout star this season. Marshall is that guy. I’d
take him over Anderson, but that doesn’t mean he’s
reached fantasy relevancy as yet.
Higgins’ best season came in 2020 with 599 receiving yards
and four TD’s for the Browns, but his stat line fell to
half that in 2021. He’ll compete with Marshall for WR3 snaps,
and I suppose if Baker Mayfield is the guy under center, whatever
chemistry was built in Cleveland could be enough to tip the scales
his way. He’s not as talented as Marshall, but he has been
reliable. That doesn’t make him worth fantasy consideration,
Thomas signed a pretty respectable long-term deal with the Panthers
this offseason, which is surprising for a player who is primarily
a blocker and underwhelmed as a receiver the last four years.
Maybe there’s a plan afoot for him, but my guess is that
he won’t have a big receiving role on this team.
As a rookie in 2021, Tremble caught 20 of 35 targets for 180 yards
and a score. It’s not much to write home about, especially
given that Christian McCaffrey was out most of the season. With
the former Pro Bowler back on the field and possibly taking on
more of a receiving role, Tremble’s fantasy value will become