Normally, August is the perfect time for football fans and experts to make predictions for the upcoming seasons. Whether stating confident picks or making bold predictions, everyone is looking to be right. This year, one fascinating storyline will be how Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold will fare after three frustrating seasons with the New York Jets.
In New York, Darnold threw for 8,097 yards, 45 touchdowns, and 39 interceptions over three seaons of nagging injuries and a depleted roster incapable of showing Darnold’s full potential. Darnold only won 13 of his 38 starts as a Jet.
After a frustrating stint with the Jets, NY traded Darnold to the Panthers, where he gets a fresh start. In Charlotte, Darnold gets one of the NFL’s best receiving backs in Christian McCaffrey. Former teammate Robby Anderson, D..J. Moore, and LSU rookie Terrace Marshall headline the receiver group in Carolina. Finally, Darnold can show whether he can be a top-10 quarterback.
The opposing divisional coaches also make a difference in how well a quarterback plays. Against offensive or defensive coaches will determine a quarterback’s effectiveness.
For Darnold, he also gets away from three defensive masterminds in Bill Belichick, Buffalo’s Sean McDermott, and Miami’s Brian Flores. Instead, the AFC South is filled with four offensive coaches. Instead of trying to stop Darnold, Bruce Arians, Sean Payton, and Arthur Smith will be trying to outscore the Panthers. Darnold’s offensive coordinator is Joe Brady, who helped Joe Burrow become the No. 1 overall pick with LSU. Together, Brady can groom Darnold into a star.
Darnold’s new division, the NFC South is going through some major transitions. While the Tampa Bay Bucs are defending Super Bowl champs, the Atlanta Falcons and New Orleans Saints are changing. New Orleans said goodbye to its legendary passes Drew Brees, who retired after 15 years as a Saint. Jameis Winston will be first quarterback not named Brees to start an opener since 2005. Falcons passer Matt Ryan is nearing the end of his career as the Falcons are looking at the future. They traded franchise icon Julio Jones to the Titans.
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Darnold can also get revenge on his old team in an opening-week meeting with the Jets. With CMC, Moore, Anderson, and Marshall, Darnold could be primed for a huge day. Afterwards, the Panthers will see the NFC East and a winnable game against the Houston Texans.
For fantasy users, Darnold is the 30th quarterback being draft according to Fantasy Data. In a 16-team or superflex league, Darnold makes sense for owners late in drafts. He offers plenty of potential as a late-round bargain.
With Darnold healthy, having great weapons, and an offensive-minded staff, the former USC star is ready to become a top-10 passer this year.