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Baker Mayfield to Buccaneers: Fantasy Football Impact (2023 NFL Free Agency)

Baker Mayfield to Buccaneers: Fantasy Football Impact (2023 NFL Free Agency)

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are signing free agent QB Baker Mayfield to a one-year deal, according to multiple reports. The Bucs are reshaping their roster in the wake of Tom Brady’s retirement, and Mayfield, who finished the year strong with the Rams after an underwhelming stint with the Panthers, gets another shot to prove he can still be a competent starting QB in the NFL.

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Bucs Sign Baker Mayfield

The Buccaneers have a 1-year deal for QB Baker Mayfield for $8.5M per Ian Rapoport giving him the chance to compete with third-year quarterback Kyle Trask for the starting gig in Tampa Bay.

But Mayfield’s outright release from the Carolina Panthers mid-season of 2022 tells you everything you need to know about his short stint there. It was a disaster. Through 11 weeks, he was averaging fewer than 12 fantasy points per game. He was also PFF’s 39th-graded QB from a clean pocket…out of 39 qualifying quarterbacks. Woof. Mayfield improved slightly during his trip out west with the L.A. Rams, but not enough to move the needle on him as a legitimate answer for a team looking for a quarterback. He averaged fewer fantasy points per game as a Ram (10.3) than as a Panther and could not be relied on to support any fantasy weapons. His 2022 standing as the 4th-worst QB in passing EPA and 7th-worst in completion rate doesn’t help bolster his case to be a highly sought-after quarterback option in free agency. Even during Mayfield’s most recent “best ” season (2020), he was still a bottom-10 passer in completion rate.

The “dynamic duo” of Mayfield/Trask does not create confidence about drafting the likes of Chris Godwin and Mike Evans among other Buccaneers because the quarterback play – and more importantly the insane pass volume – isn’t going to be present.

As I noted in my Tom Brady retirement fallout, since Brady landed in Tampa, no team was more pass-heavy. Brady just broke the record for passing attempts in a season this past year (733) after posting the 3rd-most attempts all-time (719) the year before. The Mayfield/Trask pairing in Tampa for 2023 is going to throw less. Because they literally can’t throw more.

The downtick in passing volume and efficiency will hurt the fantasy values of Godwin, Evans and Russell Gage, as the top-3 projected WRs on the Bucs’ roster. Godwin should remain at worst in the fantasy WR2 conversation regardless based on a solid role in the slot. He still will be the heavy favorite to lead the team in targets and will be another year removed from his ACL injury. The only WR we have seen put up decent numbers alongside Mayfield was slot receiver, Jarvis Landry. During his healthy seasons in 2018 and 2019, Mayfield fueled the Browns No. 1 WR to WR19 and WR12 finishes.

Godwin is WR29 on Underdog fantasy’s early best-ball ADP. He’s a value at that price.

Evans will be entering the final year of his deal and is much more concerning. Before his Week 17 eruption, he was WR26 overall and WR32 in points per game. He will be 30 by the time the season starts. History has not been kind to the aging big-bodied wide receivers that don’t win with separation later in their careers. He is a boom-or-bust fantasy WR3/4 that you should only select when he falls too far in drafts.

Evans is WR34 on Underdog fantasy’s early best-ball ADP.
Andrew Erickson

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