NFL News & Analysis

Carolina Panthers name QB Baker Mayfield Week 1 starter

The Carolina Panthers officially have a new starting quarterback.

The Panthers announced Baker Mayfield will be their Week 1 starter against his former team, the Cleveland Browns. Mayfield beat out incumbent starter Sam Darnold for the job.

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The big picture: This competition was always trending toward Mayfield coming away as the winner, even though he’s making less money than Darnold and Carolina gave up less to get him via trade.

The Panthers traded a conditional 2024 fifth-round pick to the Browns for Mayfield this offseason. He’s set to make just a $4.858 million salary in 2022 after the Browns ate $10.5 million of his salary to facilitate the trade. Mayfield also took a paycut but can recoup that $3.5 million through incentives.

Mayfield was in limbo for over three months from the time the Browns traded for Deshaun Watson until he was dealt to Carolina. A source said Carolina was willing to make the deal for Mayfield because he had turned into such a bargain and because he bolstered the QB room.


What the PFF grades say: Since entering the league as top-three draft picks in 2018, Mayfield has an 84.0 PFF grade to Darnold’s 60.7. Mayfield has earned an 81.5 passing grade, while Darnold has earned a 58.3 mark.

PFF stat Mayfield Darnold
Big-time throw rate 5.8% 3.8%
Turnover-worthy play rate 3.4% 4.2%
Average depth of target 9.4 8.8
Adjusted comp. % 70.7% 71.2%

Fantasy football fallout: Mayfield is the 26th-ranked QB, according to PFF's consensus fantasy football rankings. He has QB16, QB19 and QB16 finishes in his last three healthy seasons.

In Carolina, he has two elite passing-game options in D.J. Moore and Christian McCaffrey, plus a field-stretching option in Robbie Anderson.

Mayfield is a mid-range QB2 in an offense that could pass often. He is a top-80 pick in superflex.

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Bet to Make: D.J. Moore +2500 to lead the NFL in receiving yards on betMGM.

 Mayfield is probably as good of a player as Moore has had throwing him passes.  Furthermore, this is the worst Carolina team — at least by season win total — that he’s played on, meaning the passing volume will be there. Take the longshot on Moore.


The Panthers' QB room: The Panthers also have veteran P.J. Walker on their roster. Rookie Matt Corral suffered what’s likely a season-ending lisfranc injury in Carolina’s Week 2 preseason game against the New England Patriots, head coach Matt Rhule announced after the game.

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