A little bit of the mystery surrounding the upcoming 2021 NFL draft went out of the room on Monday evening. The New York Jets traded former no.3 overall pick QB Sam Darnold to the Carolina Panthers for a package of three draft picks. Fittingly during the Easter Season, Darnold was given a chance to resurrect his career with a new offensive-minded head coach and a set of weapons far superior to anything he saw during his tenure in the Big Apple. The Jets for their part recouped a bit of draft capital and paved the way for the QB they will undoubtedly select with the no.2 selection in the coming NFL draft. All of that is fine and good but what will the dynasty and fantasy ramifications be for all involved? Let us dive in and take a look at the new landscape of these two franchises.
Image courtesy of newyorkjets.com
The New York Jets have obviously cleared the path for their next franchise signal-caller. Reports seem to indicate that the player will be BYU’s Zack Wilson but there is no guarantee that Robert Saleh will go in that direction. Whoever is the selection, they will no longer have to contend with a former top 5 QB in the room. There will be no annoying QB camp competition, no media scrutiny, etc… At the moment all we can do is speculate who will be the pick and assure you that last year’s fourth round pick James Morgan will be the backup, barring the addition of a veteran mentor. Nonetheless, let us take a look at the skill group the no.2 overall pick will inherit.
Image courtesy of jetswire.usatoday.com
The Jets may well be looking at a new starting QB and RB to begin the 2021 campaign. The current depth chart will feature some combination of Tevin Coleman and La’Mical Perine. Some in the dynasty community hold high hopes for Perine enjoying a second-year breakout, I am not one of those analysts. Tevin Coleman is familiar with new OC Mike LaFleur’s system from their time together in San Francisco. If I were a betting man I would wager on Coleman as a mentor/coach on the field with the Jets targeting a new RB in the first three rounds. Saleh and company will seek to take some of the pressure off of their new QB by surrounding him with as many weapons as possible. Look for the Jets to upgrade this position on the second day of the draft.
Image courtesy of jetswire.usatoday.com
The New York Jets will field their best set of WRs in years heading into 2021. Not since Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker manned the outside have they fielded this level of talent. Last year’s 2nd round pick Denzell Mims will be paired with former top 10 Titans pick Corey Davis on the outside with slot dynamo Jamison Crowder manning the middle. Whoever comes in as the QB will have a nice set of weapons to distribute the ball to. There may be no true alpha among this group but all are talented and capable of putting up nice numbers. Look for Corey Davis to function as the no.1 with Mims and Crowder mixing in on plenty of plays. It is truly a shame Darnold was never afforded weapons like this during his time in NYC but at least the new regime seems determined to not repeat past mistakes.
Image courtesy of jetswire.usatoday.com
Once looked upon as a dynamic talent after a standout rookie season, Chris Herndon has languished over the last two seasons in New York. Through a combination of injuries and being in Adam Gase’s doghouse, Herndon has fallen on hard times. He needs a fresh start and now finds himself with just such an opportunity before him. There is no better friend for a rookie QB than an athletic TE. Herndon has flashed in the past and has been in the league long enough to hone his craft. Barring any major additions to the Jets TE room the former Miami Hurricane star is an excellent post-hype sleeper heading into a make or break fourth season.
Image courtesy of usatoday.com
The real winner of Monday’s trade was Sam Darnold and his Superflex managers. Darnold was looking at a very uncertain situation heading into the NFL draft. It was not out of the realm of possibility that the former no.3 overall pick was left with no chair in the game of musical QB’s. At this point with all that we know, from future pick compensation to Carolina picking up his 5th-year option he seems set as the QB for Matt Ruhle and company for the next couple of seasons at worst. Darnold will look to improve on his career numbers which you can see below.
I can already hear the detractors snickering at Darnold’s numbers. However, I would point out to them that Darnold’s best seasons saw him throw for more TD’s than Teddy Bridgewater has ever thrown in a single season. He also managed that with vastly inferior weapons than he will have at his disposal in Carolina. He already has a prior relationship with Robby Anderson. Now Darnold gets to play with DJ Moore and Christian McCaffrey. There is also a very real possibility that the Panthers could add additional weapons to the mix, possibly a dynamic TE like Kyle Pitts.
While his win-loss record is nothing to brag about, Darnold has certainly flashed over his first three seasons in the league. Darnold nailed the throw that all the pundits have been gushing about Zack Wilson and Justin Fields doing against air in an actual NFL game for a TD as you can see below.
Sam Darnold delivers … for OVER bettors … with a 30-yard TD pass to Braxton Berrios.— Bookies.com (@bookies) September 20, 2020
49ers (-7) win 31-13 as total slides above closing 41.5 total in final 2 minutes pic.twitter.com/txbymOON40#SFvsNYJ
Darnold has also displayed above-average athleticism. While never being seen as a rushing QB he is far from a statue in the pocket. You can see from the clip above that he can move effectively in the pocket. He can also scramble for yards if the game plan calls for it or the opportunity presents itself. His career-long run was last season in primetime. While I certainly do not expect him to turn into Lamar Jackson you can see from this play that he can move when needed.
Given a better set of weapons to work with and a legitimate offensive mind to unlock his potential I believe that the best may be yet to come for Sam Darnold.
Image courtesy of pantherswire.usatoday.com
What is there to say about Christian McCaffrey that hasn’t already been said. The best dual-threat RB in the NFL is coming back off of a lost season. Since coming to Carolina out of Stanford, CMC has not had the best of luck at the QB position. His time in the backfield with Cam Newton was marred by Cam’s multitude of injuries during the end of his Panthers tenure.
Provided he is healthy, McCaffrey will be the absolute best friend Sam Darnold has ever had in the professional ranks. He will be able to take little dump-off passes and eat chunks of yardage as he always has. He has had no fewer than 80 catches in any season in which he has remained healthy. I expect him to continue to be an absolute beast and true PPR weapon. Adding him into the mix with the outside weapons in Carolina and Darnold will be getting freebies on his stat sheet like the one you see below.
Christian McCaffrey breaking ankles and breaking tackles. Just becoming unfair. His second TD of the day. pic.twitter.com/sc8AU5niAc— NFL Update (@MySportsUpdate) October 13, 2019
Image courtesy of dknation.draftkings.com
DJ Moore and Robby Anderson will be unquestionably the best set of WRs Sam Darnold has played with since his time at USC. Both players are coming off of 1,000-yard campaigns and are primed for a repeat following the departure of slot dynamo Curtis Samuel. While it would be nice if Samuel were back, his loss is offset by the return of McCaffrey in the receiving game for the Panthers as a whole. Sam Darnold is extremely familiar with Robby Anderson playing with him in his first two seasons with the Jets.
The Panthers will likely target a slot WR to replace Samuel in the upcoming draft. 2021 is absolutely loaded with slot WRs and this group is primed to continue their prolific ways with Darnold. I expect this group to take a step forward with Sam at the helm. He has a better arm than Teddy B and should be able to unlock parts of their game that were unavailable for the more conservative Bridgewater at the controls. You can see an example of the connection Darnold and Anderson had with the Jets below.
Image courtesy of panthers.com
The tight end position is the weakest of the Panthers skill groups. Newly signed free agent Dan Arnold sits atop the depth chart with former fourth round pick Ian Thomas. Darnold has never been averse to incorporating the TE into the passing game. This is a spot I would love to see University of Florida TE Kyle Pitts end up with the eigth overall pick. A dynamic receiving weapon across the middle would complete the Carolina weaponry and present a difficult challenge for opposing defensive coordinators to solve. Keep an eye on the Panthers come draft time. I feel the TE position will be a target in the early rounds.
In conclusion, this is the best-case scenario for Sam Darnold and his dynasty owners. His Superflex value appears to be secure for another two years on the heels of this trade and the exercising of his 5th-year option. I expect this to be an upgrade for the Panthers receiving weapons. Sam has flashed more potential at this point in his career than Teddy B has ever shown in the NFL. All while playing with a vastly inferior supporting cast.
Sam Darnold could very well be following in the path of Ryan Tannehill after escaping the purgatory that is an Adam Gase coached team. He is the perfect bargain-basement QB2 with room for improvement. Let us not forget that he is younger than Joe Burrow and still has loads of physical talent. As for the Jets, only time will tell whom they select and if it works out. One thing is certain, whoever is the Jets next QB he enters a vastly superior situation than the one Sam Darnold was drafted to just a few short years ago.
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