Why Baker Mayfield Is the Right Bet to Lead the NFL in Interceptions in 2022
Scott Taetsch/Getty. Pictured: Baker Mayfield (Panthers)
Who will lead the league in interceptions thrown in 2022?
It's not exactly a list anyone is dying to get on, but we can bet on it, so let's make some money.
Trevor Lawrence and Matt Stafford tied for the lead league in interceptions last season with 17 each. Drew Lock and Carson Wentz had 15 each to lead the league in 2020. In 2019, Interception God Jameis Winston racked up picks like they were going out of style, giving the ball 30 times to the opposing team.
Since the passing volume jump in 2018, we're consistently seeing about five guys a year on pace to throw 15 or more interceptions any given year, effectively one interception a game. The on-pace part is tricky though, and that's why betting on interceptions leader is fun.
We need someone bad enough to throw a ton of picks — but good enough, or at least important enough — to not get benched for all his sloppy play.
Be sure to check out the other season leader bets if you haven't already:
- Passing yards
- Passing TDs
- Rushing TDs
- Receiving yards
- Receiving TDs
- Season Leaders podcast ft. Chris Raybon & Gilles Gallant
What Sort of Player Leads the League in Interceptions?
It's the Goldilocks season leader award. We need a sloppy but talented quarterback… someone juuust right.
It's no surprise that the league's youngest quarterbacks have the shortest odds. Young QBs make a lot of mistakes, but they also get a long leash because they typically play for bad teams invested in finding out if their guy can improve.
Zach Wilson, Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, and Davis Mills are co-favorites in this category, with Wilson's best price at +900 and the other three at +1000. Those lines look fair. I project all four of them at 15 or more interceptions.
But I have one guy even higher than all four youngsters: Baker Mayfield.
Baker Mayfield Is the Right Pick in 2022
Mayfield is no Jameis Winston, but he's been quite a turnover machine nonetheless. Baker has a career 2.9% interception rate, an awful number for a modern QB with almost 2,000 passing attempts.
An average NFL starter is typically around 2.0% these days, while the best passers are at 1.0% or lower. You may not think 2.9% sounds that bad, but consider that that's basically one extra interception every 100 passes. Over the course of a full season, that's five or six extra turnovers.
Mayfield was named the starter in Carolina, and that should come as no surprise. Mayfield has far more potential at this point of his career than Sam Darnold, who's been miserable most of his career and doesn't appear to have much of a future on the Panthers.
Mayfield inherits a talented set of weapons in Christian McCaffrey and D.J. Moore. More importantly, he also steps into an offense expected to pass a ton. Carolina ranked 14th in passing last season and should see a significant uptick under new offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo.
McAdoo's had a major role leading six offenses since joining the Giants in 2014. His offenses ranked top-nine in passing attempts all six times, averaging sixth most. McAdoo's offenses pass, pass and pass some more. They're not particularly efficient or good, but we need volume, and McAdoo's got volume.
McAdoo's 2017 Giants led the league in passing attempts, and his 2015 G-Men led the NFL in passing TDs. Last year he consulted with Dallas's passing game, and the Cowboys finished top-seven in passing attempts, yards, touchdowns — and interceptions.
Volume is king. If McAdoo's new Panthers offense ends up with the sixth-most passing attempts, that would have been 647 passes last year. Give Mayfield 647 passes at his career 2.9% interception rate, and he'd finish with 18.7 interceptions. That would have led the league three of the last four years.
The question isn't whether Mayfield will pass a lot or throw the ball to the other team. We already know those answers are yes.
The real question is whether Mayfield will play long enough once he does start to turn it over, and that's where preseason results help. Rookie Matt Corral would have likely gotten a shot at some point but went on season-ending injured reserve. Darnold also picked up a high ankle sprain expected to keep him out the first four to six weeks of the season, if not longer.
Those injuries leave Mayfield as the only real QB option on the roster for the foreseeable future. And since Carolina already knows Darnold isn't the future and has plenty of reason to see if Baker is, Mayfield might get to play all season.
Mayfield is my projected interceptions leader at 19 picks, which means we're getting a bargain since he's tied for the seventh-best odds at +1600. He's thrown at least 13 interceptions in three of his four seasons, establishing a pretty reliable floor — at least for us.
Baker Mayfield looks like the best bet to lead the league in interceptions at +1600. Let's just hope he stays on the field and keeps chucking.