Carolina Panthers’ quarterback Sam Darnold spoke to the media during a zoom press conference after being traded from the Jets for a 2021 sixth-round pick and 2022 second- and fourth-round picks.
Darnold had lofty goals for his time with Gang Green but they never came close to materializing.
“My expectations were to go in there and play 20 years and win Super Bowls. That was the dream going in there but obviously it didn’t work out,” Darnold said. “Just thankful for the opportunity that organization gave me the three years that I was with them.”
Even though Darnold’s Jets experience was rough, he felt he could have turned the team’s fortune around if they had decided to keep him.
“I always thought that I could make it work in New York, just being honest, I really did,” Darnold said. “My goal never changed even though there was speculation about me getting traded. I always believed that I can make it work and that we were going to get pieces and just win some games in New York and can go to the playoffs and eventually win a Super Bowl.”
Darnold threw for 8,097 yards, 45 touchdowns and tossed 39 interceptions with a passer rating of 78.6 and went 13-25 in his three seasons as the Jets starting QB.
In 2020, he completed 59.6 % of his passes and threw for 2,208 yards with only nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions in 12 games. He had a passer rating of 72.7 and a quarterback rating of 40.1. His play led the Jets to a 2-14 record and the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Throughout the offseason there was speculation the Jets would trade Darnold and draft his replacement. He said the unknown was maddening.
“That was a tough part for me because I feel like I’m a planner. I like to have things planned out,” Darnold said. “The uncertainty there was, for lack of a better term, driving me insane.”
The Jets could have kept Darnold and added talent at wide receiver, running back and the offensive line to improve the offense around him. With Darnold’s fifth-year option approaching, however, the organization would have been taking a major risk if the Jets accepted it and kept him — if he struggled again in 2021, the club would be in this same position next year.
The Jets will have more time to evaluate and build a roster a rookie quarterback. Darnold acknowledged that dilemma and how the timing wasn’t ideal.
“Timing wise things didn’t work out,” Darnold said. “In terms of what Joe had planned out with coach (Robert) Saleh, the timing in terms of just how everything works with contracts with the draft. There’s a couple things that go into it but that’s the timing we’re referring to.”
Darnold did offer some advice for any prospective incoming rookie QB the Jets decide to draft, since the team has since switched its focus to who it’ll pick at No. 2 come April 29.
“Have fun and don’t pay attention to the media. No, I’m joking, guys.” Darnold said with a chuckle. “Just have fun with it. At the end of the day it’s football. You have great coaches over there to be able to lean on and great people in the organization, great people in Jersey, and in New York. Jets fans are one of a kind but I’ll be forever grateful for those fans because you know they taught me so much about myself.”
Darnold has a chance to change his bust label. He’ll have a good supporting cast in wide receivers D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson and All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey. He’ll also have a competent offensive staff in Panthers head coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady.
2021 NFL Mock Draft: Trades shake up first round
2021 NFL Mock Draft: Trades shake up first round
1. Jacksonville (1-15) — Trevor Lawrence, QB, Clemson, Jr.
2. N.Y. Jets (2-14) — Zach Wilson, QB, BYU, Jr.
3. San Francisco from Miami through Houston (4-12) — Trey Lance, QB, North Dakota St., So.
4. Atlanta (4-12) — Kyle Pitts, TE, Florida, Jr.
5. Cincinnati (4-11-1) — Ja'Marr Chase, WR, LSU, Jr.
6. Miami from Philadelphia (4-11-1) — Jaylen Waddle, WR, Alabama, Jr.
It's scary that a 10-win team with such a good coach and plenty of young talent also has four picks in the top 50. The Dolphins are desperate for wide receivers who can get open and it's clear that will be the target here (or they wouldn't have made this deal with the Eagles). Miami mimics Cincinnati by reuniting a top receiving prospect with his old college quarterback. A healthy Waddle is the most explosive all-around athlete at receiver in this class and his addition will only expedite former Crimson Tide teammate Tua Tagovailoa's development. Top needs: WR, RB, LB
7. Detroit (5-11) — Penei Sewell, OT, Oregon, Jr.
In most drafts, Sewell would be the consensus No. 1 overall pick and he'd pair nicely with Taylor Decker, giving the Lions bookend tackles. The 2019 Outland Trophy winner — he opted out last season due to the threat of COVID-19 — isn't flawless, but his ceiling is as high as they come (he'll only be 21 in October). Top needs: WR, LB, DB
8. Carolina (5-11) — Justin Fields, QB, Ohio St., Jr.
9. Denver (5-11) — Micah Parsons, LB, Penn St., Jr.
A classic Vic Fangio defense usually features a playmaking linebacker at its core. Parsons is another elite prospect who opted out of the 2020 season, citing "the potential risk to the health and well-being" of his young son due to COVID. He recently dazzled scouts with a 4.39 40-yard dash at his pro day. This would be the first time in my lifetime the first defensive player off the board lasts this long. Top needs: Edge, OT, LB
10. Dallas (6-10) — Patrick Surtain II, CB, Alabama, Jr.
11. N.Y. Giants (6-10) — Kwity Paye, Edge, Michigan, Sr.
The Giants are in need of another pass rushing threat to go opposite Leonard Williams. Paye is already an impressive run defender against the spread offense, which is becoming increasingly important in the NFL, and there are athletic indicators he will continue to improve as a pass rusher. Top needs: OL, Edge, LB
12. Philadelphia from Miami through San Francisco (6-10) — DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama, Sr.
Is it me or does it seem like the Eagles are always in need of help at receiver? The Heisman winner took his game to another level after Waddle was sidelined in 2020 — he had 1,300 yards on 72 receptions and 19 touchdowns in his last eight games. The only blemish is his size. Top needs: WR, CB, LB
13. L.A. Chargers (7-9) — Rashawn Slater, OL, Northwestern, Sr.
Signing All-Pro center Corey Linsley is a step in the right direction for a very bad offensive line. Slater opted out this season due to COVID, but handled the mighty Chase Young as a junior while playing left tackle and didn't allow a single sack his last season. He's versatile and talented enough to play all five offensive line positions. He did nothing during his pro day to hurt himself. Top needs: OL, CB, DL
14. Minnesota (7-9) — Christian Darrisaw, OT, Virginia Tech, Sr.
Coach Mike Zimmer didn't hold back when he called his defense the "worst one I've ever had," but the offensive line is priority here considering the Vikings don't have a pick in the second round. Darrisaw would be the first Hokie offensive lineman to be drafted in the first round since 2008 ( Duane Brown). Top needs: OL, S, Edge
15. New England (7-9) — Mac Jones, QB, Alabama, Jr.
16. Arizona (8-8) — Najee Harris, RB, Alabama, Sr.
If you're a fantasy player who is excited about Chase Edmonds' potential as a featured back now that Kenyan Drake has moved on, don't get your hopes up. Harris has evolved into an all-around threat. Of course, he's a powerful runner with his size (6-foot-2, 230 pounds), but he's also developed into a great receiver out of the backfield and he's improved significantly in pass-protection. Top needs: CB, RB, OL
17. Las Vegas (8-8) — Trevon Moehrig-Woodard, S, TCU, Jr.
The Raiders must address their atrocious secondary. Moehrig-Woodard's skillset is scheme-proof. He's a hard hitter who led all safeties in pass breakups in each of the past two seasons. Top needs: OT, S, LB
18. Miami (10-6) — Travis Etienne, RB, Clemson, Sr.
One way to alleviate the pressure off of a young quarterback is to give him a dynamic running back who is a three-down threat and capable of scoring every time the ball is in his hands. Etienne, a three-time All-American and the ACC's career rushing leader, fits the bill perfectly. Top needs: WR, RB, LB
19. Washington (7-9) — Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah, LB, Notre Dame, Sr.
I'm going to go out on a limb here and say Taylor Heinicke isn't the quarterback of the future for the Football Team — or Ryan Fitzpatrick for that matter — but there's not a QB on the board worthy of this pick. Owusu-Koramoah is an explosive athlete who can make plays from sideline-to-sideline. The ACC Defensive Player of the Year also won the Butkus Award (nation's top linebacker) and was a consensus All-American. Top needs: QB, LB, Edge
20. Chicago (8-8) — Caleb Farley, CB, Virginia Tech, Jr.
21. Indianapolis (11-5) — Azeez Ojulari, Edge, Georgia, So.
I expected the Colts to be aggressive seeking their next quarterback in the trade market and they didn't disappoint. The next biggest priority is to continue building their pass rush. Ojulari was a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award (the nation's top defensive player) with 8.5 sacks, 12.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles and 25 quarterback hurries. He's only scratching the surface of his talent. Top needs: Edge, OT, CB
22. Tennessee (11-5) — Jaycee Horn, CB, South Carolina, Jr.
The Titans will need to address their secondary (after releasing Kenny Vaccaro and Malcolm Butler) in a major way. Horn — his father Joe was a Pro Bowl wide receiver — is a very talented, uber-aggressive press corner with elite speed, good size (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) and can make plays in run support. Top needs: WR, CB, DT
23. N.Y. Jets from Seattle (12-4) — Jaelan Phillips, Edge, Miami, Jr.
If past is prologue, once head coach Robert Saleh has his quarterback situation figured out, he'll focus on building a pass rush. Phillips stepped up in Gregory Rousseau's absence after transferring from UCLA. The former highly-touted recruit is a relentless pass rusher who produced eight sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss in 10 games as a Hurricane. Top needs: QB, OT, LB
24. Pittsburgh (12-4) — Alijah Vera-Tucker, OL, USC, Jr.
The Steelers are facing difficult decisions at almost every major position after this season, but it's clear the offensive line has to be a priority. Vera-Tucker was one of the best offensive tackles in the country, but could also shine on the interior in the NFL. Top needs: OT, RB, LB
25. Jacksonville from L.A. Rams (10-6) — Jayson Oweh, Edge, Penn St., So.
26. Cleveland (11-5) — Zaven Collins, LB, Tulsa, Jr.
The Browns need to upgrade their pass rush outside of Myles Garrett, but they also need to improve their linebacker corps. Collins has the size (6-4, 260), athleticism and positional flexibility that will cause most defensive coordinators to drool. He received the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, awarded by the Football Writers Association of America to the top defensive player in college football. Top needs: LB, Edge, DL
27. Baltimore (11-5) — Gregory Rousseau, Edge, Miami, So.
Yannick Ngakoue and Matt Judon are gone. It's been almost two decades since a Hurricane defensive end was taken in the first round ( Jerome McDougle in 2003). Rousseau finished with 15.5 sacks in 13 games as a redshirt freshman, but opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns. Top needs: Edge, C, LB
28. New Orleans (12-4) — Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue, So.
Emmanuel Sanders' release and no money for free agency might necessitate this move. Moore would be a nice fit opposite a healthy Michael Thomas. An impressive pro day should boost him into the back-end of the first round. Top needs: QB, DB, WR
29. Green Bay (13-3) — Greg Newsome II, CB, Northwestern, Jr.
30. Buffalo (13-3) — Jaylen Mayfield, OL, Michigan, Jr.
Offensive tackle Daryl Williams was resigned, but the Bills still need to address the interior. Mayfield features the versatility and athleticism to thrive in offensive coordinator Brian Daboll's system. Top needs: DL, G, CB
31. Kansas City (14-2) — Samuel Cosmi, OT, Texas, Jr.
The greatness of Patrick Mahomes has made up for the mediocrity of his offensive line since he became the starter. Joe Thuney was a nice addition at guard. Cosmi is capable of starting at right tackle day one, but has the ability to protect Mahomes' blindside eventually. Top needs: OT, LB, WR