A few short years ago, the New York Jets selected quarterback Sam Darnold with the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and their fans were excited to have a new franchise cornerstone under center. He was supposed to be a "can’t miss" prospect that would lead the team to new heights.
Darnold was seemingly more polished than Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson, more NFL-ready than Josh Rosen, and more composed than Baker Mayfield.
Fast forward three NFL seasons, and with the exception of Rosen, Darnold is viewed as the least successful first-round quarterback in the 2018 class. It’s tough to pinpoint exactly where things went awry for him. He’s had double digit-interception totals in all three seasons, though he has never played in all 16 games.
To be fair, his sack percentage (percentage of times sacked while attempting to pass) has only increased each year, which speaks to the lack of protection he’s received throughout his time with the Jets.
Because the Jets hold the second overall pick in 2021 NFL Draft, they are in prime position to select another blue chip quarterback prospect. If they go in that direction, then Darnold will probably be sent packing to another NFL team. Where could Darnold wind up next season?
The Houston Texans could take a chance on Sam Darnold
The largest potential domino to fall in the 2021 NFL offseason will be Deshaun Watson and his apparent desire to leave the Houston Texans. He’s only 25 years old, and his ceiling is as high as any quarterback not named Patrick Mahomes. It’s been rumored that Watson would welcome a trade to the Jets, as he reportedly believes in new head coach Robert Saleh.
Even with Watson, the Texans are in rebuilding mode after they lost several key starters in the past year or so. They will need a young quarterback to build around if Watson heads elsewhere, and Darnold might be an attractive option. It might be difficult for Darnold to succeed in Houston with a barren roster, but the Texans can take a chance on a former first-round pick.
Sam Darnold could succeed with the Denver Broncos
The Broncos, unlike the Jets and the Texans, have many promising players on offense. Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler and Tim Patrick are promising receivers. Tight end Noah Fant is one of the game’s young, emerging players, and he also serves as an enticing weapon.
The question for Denver is whether new general manager George Paton thinks that Drew Lock can utilize these weapons properly in order to guide the team to the playoffs. So far, Lock hasn’t been any more impressive than Darnold in his career.
Because Darnold has slightly more seasoning, Denver could look his way, as he's more of a finished product than Lock.
Sam Darnold could give the Washington Football Team some stability
When it comes to quarterbacks, it’s been a rollercoaster ride for the Washington Football Team in recent years. First-round draft pick Dwayne Haskins began the 2020 season as the team's starter, but it was clear that his lackluster level of play and leadership ability didn't meet Washington's expectations.
Alex Smith stepped up when he got the opportunity to start for the team. He won the 2020 Comeback Player of the Year award, did a competent job leading the team, but the team released him after the year.
When Smith was unable to play, journeyman Taylor Heinicke had an impressive performance in the Wild Card Round this past season, but he has no other NFL experience to speak of.
Despite all of this turnover, Washington still made the playoffs behind a solid running game and an impressive defense. This team isn't that far away from a legitimate contender, so it might look to Darnold to help provide stability at the game's most important position.
Washington could be a great destination for Sam Darnold because head coach Ron Rivera is regarded as one of the best leaders in the game.
Sam Darnold could be the Atlanta Falcons' next star QB
The perception and reality of the Atlanta Falcons' future appear to be two very different things. The perception of the team is that it still has the ability to contend in the NFL. Atlanta features an established quarterback in Matt Ryan and two tremendous wide receivers in Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley. On paper, this team could hang with any team in the league.
That being said, Atlanta has been mediocre at best recently. Since the teammade the Super Bowl in 2016, Atlanta only recorded one winning season. The Falons bottomed out last year at 4-12.
Most signs point towards the likelihood that the core of the team will return for 2021, but it would not be surprising if the Falcons decided to shake things up. At worst, it would be wise for the team to consider its future at the quarterback position.
Ryan continues to age, so Darnold could be a smart alternative, either as an immediate replacement or as an understudy for a year.
Sam Darnold could lead the Philadelphia Eagles' new era
The Eagles are going to be an interesting team to watch this offseason. Will they embrace the dual-threat quarterback movement that has worked so well for the Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills and Arizona Cardinals? Or will they bring in someone else to operate a more traditional offense under new head coach Nick Sirianni?
Jalen Hurts figures to be in the mix one way or another, as last year’s second-round pick put up a fairly positive performance in relief of embattled starter Carson Wentz. The Eagles may not want to go the damaged goods route again with Darnold, but he's a viable choice if they belief that Hurts is not progressing enough as a passing threat.
It's easy to see Sam Darnold fitting in on any one of these teams, and any number of other contenders could vie for his services, too.