The 2018 NFL draft quarterback class reviewed: Part II

by Patrick Kidd

The 2018 NFL Draft boasted an extremely talented field of young quarterbacks (QB). The build-up to Draft night was full of uncertainty and excitement as the order in which the talented QBs would be picked was very up in the air. By the end of the first round of the Draft, five quarterbacks had been taken off the board, including four in the first 10 picks.

Over a series of articles, the five quarterbacks of the 2018 NFL Draft will have their young careers reviewed and revisited, as the ranking of the quarterbacks’ careers will be counted down.

Image via The Jet Press: Darnold poses with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after being selected by the New York Jets in the 2018 NFL Draft.

4th out of 5: Sam Darnold

Going into the 2018 NFL Draft, Sam Darnold was the most highly-touted quarterback prospect and most scouts predicted that he would be taken in the first five selections of the draft. In hindsight, Darnold has not lived up to these high expectations and has struggled to put up numbers playing for a badly operated franchise with unsatisfied fans.

Coming out of the University of Southern California, Darnold was drafted by the New York Jets with the third overall pick of the draft. Many were shocked that he fell this low in the draft and Jets fans were overjoyed by the news that the quarterback whom they had been swooning over for three months was going to be joining their franchise.

Darnold’s rookie season, unfortunately, did not live up expectations. The young quarterback started 13 games for the Jets on the season, winning four of them and losing the subsequent nine. Over this stretch, he threw for just under 3000 yards, bagging 17 touchdowns and throwing 15 interceptions. Though these stats were not phenomenal, they did not indicate any problems with Darnold’s game that couldn’t be rectified through experience and practice. There was still a lot of promise as he transitioned into his sophomore season as a franchise quarterback.

Sam Darnold’s second year with the New York Jets proved to be the most dramatic of his short career thus far. The season began with the firing of head coach Todd Bowles and the appointment of Adam Gase into the position. It also saw Darnold miss a stretch of games after being diagnosed with mononucleosis (the kissing disease). Also, in a high-pressure game against division rivals the New England Patriots, Darnold famously mentioned “seeing ghosts” after throwing his second interception of the game.

Image via The New York Post: Darnold sits dejectedly on the side line during a 2019 match-up with the New England Patriots.

Over the course of the season, his team did marginally better than his first year, finishing with a 7-9 record with three of those losses taking place in Darnold’s absence. Darnold himself also improved his accuracy and turning over of the football. He finished the season with 13 interceptions and a 61,9 completion percentage. Unfortunately for Darnold, his third season did not improve on the steady trajectory his career appeared to be following.

In his third and most recent season with the Jets, Darnold was at his poorest. The Californian played only 12 of the Jets’ 16 matches and the side started the season with 13 straight losses between September and December. The Jets got their first win of the season when they defeated the high-flying Los Angeles Rams 23-20 and then bagged their second the very next week when they met the Cleveland Browns.

Image via The Japan Times: Darnold lets fly during the Jets’ first victory of the 2020 NFL season against the LA Rams.

Darnold was under centre for both victories and ended the season with great momentum. It was his dire run of form leading up to December that was particularly jarring though. Darnold finished the season with 2208 passing yards and throwing more interceptions than touchdowns.

With the second overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, the Jets front office may look to move on from Sam Darnold and select a new QB to steer the franchise in the right direction. This would be a gut-wrenching turn of events for Darnold who has been poorly managed by the Jets coaching staff and executives. During his tenure in New York, Darnold has seen two of his head coaches get fired and is yet to play a game in the playoffs.

It may be for the best for Darnold to move elsewhere in a trade and reignite his career in a less stressful coaching and media climate. Only the 2021 draft will give us any indication of Darnold’s future in the Big Apple and whether he leaves New York or not, the underperforming QB has all the talent to get his career on the right trajectory.

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