CHARLOTTE, N.C. – After being acquired in a blockbuster trade from the New York jets, and the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft right around the corner up in Cleveland, is Sam Darnold the guy down in Carolina?
Darnold, the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft out of the University of Southern Carolina, passed for 8,097 yards, 45 touchdowns and 39 interceptions in three seasons, before being dealt to the Panthers.
Highly regarded as one of the top quarterbacks in college, Darnold was once considered a top pick, and seen by some as a possible franchise QB. At 6’3 and 225 pounds, the 23-year-old Dana Point, California native is still young and nowhere near his full potential thanks to the dysfunction under former head coach Adam Gase, in addition to a lack of offensive identity.
It is way too early to call Darnold a bust, or call him a flop, which is why his trade to Carolina could prove to be a blessing in disguise thanks to the more creative playcalling of head coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady.
Brady, whom many believe will emerge as a possible head coach, first rose to the national spotlight in bringing run-heavy LSU from the Stone Age to the 21st century, thanks to his wide-open, pass-happy system. The still thirty-something play caller earned universal acclaim as a “quarterback whisperer’ in transforming former Ohio State transfer QB Joe Burrow from a possible fifth-round pick into a Heisman Trophy winner and No.1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
If Brady can do wonders for the likes of Burrow, imagine what he can do for a still young Darnold, who has three years in the league and a similar skill set.
One thing is clear, Brady is better than Gase on his worst day, and will look to play to Darnold’s strength’s as a passer and dual-threat abilities. Carolina also has some dude named Christian McCaffrey who is a running back in a wideout’s body–or is it the other way around?
Carolina also have better weapons for Darnold to use down in Charlotte, in addition to the 8th pick in the upcoming draft. So, Carolina could really insulate Darnold with some playmakers in either WR Ja’Marr Chase or Jaylen Waddle to replace the departed Curtis Samuel and step in immediate across from Robby Anderson, whom is in a contract year.
With so many pressing needs–not named QB–down in the Queen City–Darnold not only has a chance for a fresh start deep in the heart of NASCAR Nation, but a chance to be the guy in a place that is happy to have him.