2020 season totals:
Games: 12 Attempts/Completions: 364/217 Comp %: 59.6 Yards: 2,208 TD:9 INT:11 Fantasy Pts:145.0 (Rank – 30)
Normally, if you told someone the New York Jets picked 2nd in this year’s draft, you would presume the quarterback play last year stunk out the joint. To a certain extent, you would be correct. But there were multiple factors at play that led to this and, ultimately, the exit of Darnold out the door.
Across the board, Darnold had his worst year since landing in the Big Apple back in 2018. A miserable return of 9 TDs for 11 picks translated into a 2-14 record for the Jets, seeing them plummet to the bottom of the AFC East. In fairness to Darnold, the Jets had some of the worst, if not the worst, weapons in the league.
The problems deepened further with Adam Gase at the helm who seemed out of his depth from day 1. Although mobile and by no means a statue, Darnold couldn’t run away fast enough from the oncoming pressure his O-Line succumbed to. Apart from Mekhi Becton who showed promise, the unit ranked dead last in allowed pressure – 2.5 seconds or less if you were wondering.
Remember those multiple factors I referred to? Darnold, still only 23, was not all to blame and can still be salvaged. That’s what the Carolina Panthers think anyway.
The Panthers moved on Teddy Bridgewater this offseason and decided to offer a 2021 sixth-round pick, and a second and fourth-round pick in next year’s draft to acquire Darnold. From the jump, the situation already looks rosier.
Despite finishing 5-11 last year, Carolina lost several close games and was without the god-level running back, Christian McCaffrey for nearly the entire season. Speaking of McCaffrey, the level of weapons now at Darnold’s disposal is undoubtedly better. Robby Anderson was huge last year and is now reunited with Jets teammate Daronld to rekindle the connection. Combine that with the expected ascendancy of D.J. Moore this year, there cannot be any grumbles of lack of support for the new QB in town. The pickup of Terrace Marshall Jr is fairly significant from a team build and depth standpoint, as he’ll be battling David Moore for that spot.
Darnold will be the starter straight away so he doesn’t have to worry about competing for the job, which should give him a new sense of confidence and belief. Second-year coach Matt Rhule is optimistic his team can build on last year and continue to move forward. In doing so, they will need Darnold to hit the ground running straight away.
I expect a big improvement on last year’s numbers. Carolina drafted well, has a good head coach, and has the foundations for a quarterback to grow and succeed. Sometimes, a change of scenery is all you need, so don’t be surprised to see Darnold in the top 15 QBs next season.
The system is a fluid one under Matt Rhule meaning that the rotation of players Darnold has to throw to and where they line up should be interchangeable, meaning open targets for Darnold to hit and raise that paltry completion % on his career. His current ADP as the 28th QB off the board in dynasty leagues could be crazy value come this time next year and dare i say it, could be a league winner off waivers in redraft.
Featured image: ClutchPoints