Let’s Not Bury Sam Darnold Just Yet (Fantasy Football)
Sam Darnold, the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. For Darnold, his path to be an NFL starting quarterback meant being drafted by the New York Jets. As excited as some were for the newest Jets quarterback, others remembered the cycle of the organization.
As part of the Jets squad, Darnold played 38 games, throwing for 8,097 yards and 45 touchdowns with 39 interceptions. He had the stigma of “seeing ghosts”. He had to cope with Adam Gase. He got mono. You know, all the things your franchise quarterback dreams of.
Darnold’s coaching staff during his rookie year included Head Coach Todd Bowles and Offensive Coordinator Jeremy Bates. After a dud of a season, both Bowles and Bates were fired, as New York hired Gase in January of 2019. And you know how that story goes. 2019 was the year Darnold was diagnosed with mono, going 7-6 as a starter, with the Jets overall record 7-9. 2020 was even worse, earning a record of 2-14. In January of 2021, the Jets had finally had enough, releasing Gase, who went 9-23 in the regular season.
People speculated that the Jets would be drafting a quarterback in the 2021 Draft, which came to fruition in Zach Wilson. NYJ traded Darnold to the Carolina Panthers in early April, before the Draft, for a 2021 6th round pick, 2022 2nd round pick, and 2022 4th round pick. Carolina did not draft a quarterback but did manage to obtain quality pieces for their offense. The organization also picked up Darnold’s fifth-year option.
Darnold is still young for a fourth-year quarterback, turning 24 in June. Yes, he is not “darn old” as his name would lead you to believe. Some starting quarterbacks Darnold is younger than include Joe Burrow, Baker Mayfield, and Drew Lock. A change of scenery could be just what Darnold needs to be a feasible quarterback for fantasy football purposes. The landing spot for Darnold is one of the best he could ask for as the Panthers have weapons, not to mention that they traded quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to Denver.
The new Panthers quarterback joins forces once again with former Jets wideout Robby Anderson. Anderson caught 95 receptions for 1,096 yards last season with the Panthers, a career-high in both categories. The veteran wide receiver connected with Darnold in the past, and the two of them should get going in 2021.
Don’t forget that the Panthers have an elite (and healthy) running back in Christian McCaffrey, a great safety blanket for any quarterback. D.J. Moore is a young wide receiver who put up 1,100+ yards in the last two seasons. Carolina added Terrace Marshall Jr., Tommy Tremble, Chuba Hubbard in the Draft as potential help for the offense. Curtis Samuel is no longer in town, so the Panthers hope to hit with their rookie picks. David Moore is another option there as well.
Marshall is intriguing as he reunited with his former LSU passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach Joe Brady, now Offensive Coordinator for the Panthers. Having that connection will help take Marshall’s pro career forward. Marshall is a player with versatility that can play in or out of the slot. Anderson could be gone in 2022, so there is a high probability Marshall will have to step up into a prominent role quickly. Darnold has talent all around him in offensive weapons, so he is set up for success now and for the future.
The NFL released its 2021 schedule on Thursday night, and a Week 1 matchup finds Darnold facing his old team, the New York Jets, in a “revenge game.” You have to know the NFL knew what they were doing when they created the schedule. Facing his former team, which basically gave up on him, will light a fire under his feet. He’ll be dueling it out with his replacement, Zach Wilson, in the afternoon showdown, increasing his desire to win.
This offense has potential, and it will be interesting to see how Darnold’s season turns out. Head Coach Matt Rhule has confidence in Darnold. The team seems ready to move forward with Darnold under center. It is not time to write off Darnold (At least, not yet).