Finding a franchise quarterback is everything in today’s NFL, but once you have that player, he needs help to be able to function. That’s the situation the New York Jets are facing with Sam Darnold. There are few passers capable of performing with nothing at all around them — most require some form of supporting cast — and the best supplemental pieces can propel even marginal quarterbacks into looking like top-10 players.
The 2017 quarterback draft class was an impressive group that saw five taken in the first round with varying degrees of good or bad situations, and watching the contrast in how their respective teams have built around them has been fascinating.
Josh Rosen’s NFL career may already be all but over thanks to landing in back-to-back horrendous situations that gave him simply no shot of success, while the Baltimore Ravens and Buffalo Bills have been impressively building around Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen, respectively. And those are the two players most neutral observers feel the most confident about going forward.
The Cleveland Browns have tried to assemble a quality team around Baker Mayfield, but the first attempt went poorly enough that the entire regime changed this offseason, and it is yet to be determined how the second iteration will fare.
That leaves Darnold and the Jets, and it’s difficult to look at his outlook in 2020 with any kind of optimism because of the pieces currently around him.
A quarterback's supporting cast essentially boils down to three main areas: receivers, pass protection and scheme/playcalling. Currently, it’s difficult to see any of those areas helping rather than hindering his development.
Last season, Le’Veon Bell was the Jets’ highest-graded receiver and is, you know, a running back. Robby Anderson has consistently been one of the best deep threats in football over recent years despite not having much to work with in terms of quarterback play or an offense to set it up, yet he looks poised to walk in free agency unless his relatively barren market sees him come back to the Jets with his tail between his legs in contract terms.