What’s Next for Sam Darnold and the Jets? As in “Benny and the Jets”, Elton John, if you missed that.
The Jets have some big decisions to make. Firstly who’s going to be their head coach and then what to do with their first round pick; pick 2 of the 2021 draft. Depending which direction they go there will have big repercussions on the future of current quarterback Sam Darnold.
The number 3 pick of the 2018 draft hasn’t exactly set the world alight. Through his 38 starts he’s completed 729 of his 1219 attempts (59.8%) with 45 touchdowns and 38 interceptions. Half of those starts he’s failed to get over 200 yards and has failed to score in 10 of those games. During his starts the Jets are 13-25 and questions are being asked whether Darnold’s future remains with the Jets.
Two wins in their last three games pushed the Jets out of the top spot in the draft. Where Clemson’s QB Trevor Lawrence would have been the only sensible pick. By far the most highly touted prospect to come through the draft for years Lawrence would have been the Jets talisman, but that wasn’t meant to be.
At pick no.2. The Jets have the pick of the best of the rest, but what should they do with that pick and more importantly; what should they do with Sam Darnold?
Draft a QB?
There’s plenty to choose from! Zach Wilson‘s stock has risen significantly this season, the BYU QB is picked by many to be the second QB picked off the board. Or there’s Justin Fields who has a shot at becoming a national champion when his Ohio State Buckeyes play Tuesday 12th. Wilson, Fields and North Dakota’s Trey Lance are all pencilled in to be picked by the middle of the first round. Realistically any of them could go no.2.
Drafting a QB with pick no.2 would signal the end for Darnold. It’s fair to say Darnold hasn’t lived up to his pre-draft hype, where some has him touted as the first pick. Few would berate the Jets for looking at alternatives. However, first round QBs rarely do live up to the hype.
Trade away Darnold?
Darnold is coming of easily his worst season. He completed only 59.6% of his pass attempts and threw only 9 touchdowns and 11 interceptions in the 12 games he played this term. His average of 184 yards/game is over 25 yards short of his rookie and sophomore average and less than one touchdown a game is well behind his previous bests to.
Digging in deeper into his record this year doesn’t bring any relief; he failed to complete 20 or more passes in 7 games and failed to throw a touchdown in 5.
A new head coach may well want to bring in his “own” QB. In which case the Jets may look to trade Darnold away. Despite his failings he’s relatively young at 23, younger than last years no.1 pick Joe Burrows. The Cardinals got a 2nd round pick for Josh Rosen after his first year and it’s rare to have a QB with 38 games in the NFL at Darnold’s age of 23. The Jets should expect a 2nd, maybe even a late 1st, round pick for Darnold.
Stick and Pick?
Despite the above Darnold may well stay as the Jets QB. Keeping him frees up countless opportunities for the Jets in this years draft. As well as the no.2 pick the Jets also have the no.27 pick in the 1st round. Add that to pick 34 in the 2nd round, 66 and 91 in the 3rd. The Jets have a huge opportunity to add young, high level talent this spring.
Yes the Jets haven’t been great recently, going 13-35 the past 3 years, but Darnold isn’t the only issue, far from it. A lack of a running game; the Jets haven’t had a 1000 yard rusher since Chris Ivory in 2015. In the past 3 years they’ve been in the bottom 10 teams for rushing yards, and bottom 6 for yards/attempt, each year.
In the 3 season Darnold has been in the league teams have averaged 44.3 rushing touchdowns each. The Jets have totalled only 26 rushing touchdowns, 5 of those were Darnold himself. Some sort of running game would massively help the jets, regardless of who’s at QB.
Defensively the Jets have been poor too. In terms of points they’ve been 25th, 16th and 26th (2018,19,20) the past 3 years. Any progress made in 2019, where the team went 7-9, was lost this year.
With 5 picks in the top 100 the Jets aren’t short of opportunities come April. If there’s no one they’re too keen on with pick no.2 they could add to their pick arsenal by trading down. There may well be someone willing to throw them a 1st, 2nd or several picks to move up in the draft and this is an option that would allow them to add more weapons to a team that is in desperate need.
If it was up to me, I’d keep Darnold and add some much needed talent around him. Not just in the draft, but with a projected $100m+ cap space, in free agency too. Give him a half decent running game, better weapons to throw to and an average defence and Sam Darnold may well live up to the hype.