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Fantasy Football Dynasty Diagnostic: The future of Sam Darnold

Reports suggest that Zach Wilson is going to be the New York Jets‘ pick with the No. 2 overall selection in the 2021 NFL Draft. The gunslinger from BYU is poised to don a Gang Green fitted hat come draft night, and that means Sam Darnold’s days are limited in New York.

What does the future hold for the once highly touted quarterback out of USC who is still just 24 years old? Can he become the league’s next Ryan Tannehill in a post-Adam Gase offense? 

Let's take a look at Darnold's first three years in the league in order to diagnose his long-term fantasy outlook. Maybe we can find a potential suitor who could help revive the former No. 3 overall pick's NFL career. 

SAM DARNOLD’S LACKLUSTER START

Darnold is PFF’s 46th-graded quarterback (60.4) out of 55 qualifying QBs since entering the league in 2018. His passer rating (78.6) ranks 51st and yards per attempt (6.6) are 41st. Darnold earned his highest overall grade (64.7) as a rookie, which ranked 29th out of 39 qualifying quarterbacks. 

From a fantasy perspective, Darnold has been practically unplayable. He’s never even approached top-24 QB status in either fantasy points per game or expected fantasy points per game. In 38 career starts, he has scored 20-plus fantasy points just six times (15%). He's only passed for 300-plus yards four times in his career. 

Sam Darnold | 2018-2020
  Fantasy Points Per Game Expected Fantasy Points Per Game
2018 13.3 (34th) 15.6  (26th)
2019 14.6 (28th) 15.5 (28th)
2020 11.3 (40th) 13.7 (40th)

Darnold’s career has gotten off to a troubling start, to say the least, but we have to acknowledge the less-than-ideal situation. Darnold has faced the highest pressure rate (42%) in the league over the past two seasons, and his best receivers have been Jamison Crowder, Robby Anderson, Chris Herndon and Le’Veon Bell

He’s had an underwhelming supporting cast and is running for his life on nearly half of his dropbacks. Still, most if not all quarterbacks are worse under pressure. A better predictor of future success for signal-callers is how they fare from a clean pocket. But things don't look great for Darnold there, either. 

Last season, Darnold finished dead last in PFF grading from a clean pocket (59.1). He threw six touchdown passes against seven interceptions and finished second-to-last in yards per attempt (6.4). 

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