When the New York Jets traded Teddy Bridgewater to the New Orleans Saints, the team signified that it was moving forward. The Jets all but confirmed that 2018’s number three overall pick, Sam Darnold, was going to start from Week One. Reportedly, the team confirmed that the former Trojan would start the regular season opener.
The Jets appear confident in their rookie, but there is no doubt that Darnold will have a tough time playing in this position. Darnold turned 21 in June, and he lacks experience. He did not start playing quarterback until he was an upperclassman in high school, and he did not even start a full two seasons in college. He still has some developmental curves to face regarding a prospect, let alone an NFL quarterback.
Darnold does not have a good supporting cast to help him, either. A team absolutely needs to have good support to aid a rookie quarterback in transitioning. However, the team lacks an average offensive line and the requisite weapons. The Jets also already have quality starting-caliber signal-callers on the roster. As such, Darnold should have started the season on the bench.
However, Darnold is going to be thrown straight into the fire. With this in mind, what would a successful season look like for Darnold? A player cannot be declared a bust until after said player’s rookie year, as evidenced by Jared Goff.
There have been tons of examples of success and failure in the past decade that were high first-round picks. To fairly judge Darnold, he must be compared to examples of both successful and unsuccessful players who became high first-round picks throughout the past decade.
Andrew Luck: 16 games 4,374 yards 23 TD, 18 INT, 76.5 passer rating
Jameis Winston: 16 games 4,042 yards, 22 TD, 15 INT, 84.2 passer rating
Marcus Mariota: 12 games 2,818 yards, 19 TD, 10 INT, (25 TD 13 INT pace) 91.5 passer rating
Blake Bortles: 14 games 2,908 yards, 11 TD, 17 INT, 69.5 passer rating
Carson Wentz: 16 games 3,782 yards, 16 TD, 14 INT, 79.3 passer rating
*passer rating is on a scale of 0-158.3
And how about the Jets’ last first-round QB?
Mark Sanchez: 15 games, 2,444 yards, 12 TD, 20 INT 63.0 passer rating
Frankly, both Bortles and Sanchez are bad quarterbacks who would struggle almost anywhere. Darnold is no doubt a better player than Bortles and Sanches, but many would be disappointed if he performed in the same atmosphere during his rookie years. Rookie quarterbacks aren’t exactly world-beaters, however, even when one takes Andrew Luck’s 11-5 performance into account. Any fans who expect Darnold to give a truly exceptional performance are being both unrealistic and delusional.
Darnold doesn’t need to have an amazing rookie season in order to be successful. Simply put, he will make mistakes. Evaluators should look for flashes of potential when considering a high-end rookie quarterback. Players should get smarter and better as the season goes on. However, players should have some solid accuracy, a relatively favorable TD: INT ratio, and a limit on turnovers.
Last year at USC, Darnold was a turnover machine. He averaged over one turnover a game. If he is able to limit his interceptions to between thirteen to fifteen and his fumbles to around seven or eight while still throwing around 20-23 touchdowns and completing close to 60% of his passes, he should be considered to be a success. These numbers take into account the Jets’ makeshift offensive line, the team’s lack of quality weapons, and the enormous pressure which the New York media is placing upon Darnold.
Most importantly, Sam Darnold should get better each month while still remaining healthy for all sixteen games. He shouldn’t repeat his mistakes, and nor should he look as overwhelmed in Week Ten as he was in Week One. He should learn from his mistakes and avoid them in the future.
Nobody wants to see an excellent prospect, such as David Carr, ruined due to a lack of protection. Sam Darnold should not hit the ground too much. It’s outrageous for a player to be sacked 40-plus times, and 50-plus most likely means that said player’s team has the worst offensive line in the game. David Carr was sacked 76 times as a rookie, a fact that ultimately ruined him.
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