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What You Need to Know:
-Suspect coaching and a poor supporting cast torpedoed Darnold’s 2020. HC Adam Gase’s offense lacked creativity, and Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman and Braxton Berrios finished as the top targets.
-The Jets’ O-line allowed Darnold to face pressure on a league-high 43% of his dropbacks.
-Across 12 games, he finished as a top-15 fantasy QB only twice.
-Darnold ranked near the bottom of the league in completion rate (59.6%), TD rate (2.5%), INT rate (3.0%), YPA (6.1) and QBR (40.1).
-The results weren’t all about the situation, though. Darnold received the worst Pro Football Focus passing grade (52.7) of his career. That ranked 42nd among 44 QBs with 100+ dropbacks.
-Darnold suffered a sprained right shoulder in Week 4. He missed 2 games before an aggravation cost him 2 more absences.
-In April, the Panthers acquired Darnold in a trade and exercised his 5th-year option. Dealing Teddy Bridgewater to Denver confirmed that Darnold will start.
-In the draft, Carolina passed on selecting Justin Fields or Mac Jones. Certainly a vote of confidence for Darnold.
-The Panthers added offseason pieces around Darnold, including TE Dan Arnold and rookies Terrace Marshall (WR) and Brady Christensen (LT).
-Carolina lost Curtis Samuel in free agency. But an offense with DJ Moore, Robby Anderson and Marshall — plus a healthy Christian McCaffrey — brings a high ceiling for 2021.
-The O-line is a potential weak link. RT Taylor Moton is the only high-level player up front.
-The Panthers finished mid-pack with a 57.5% pass rate in 2020. While we like the creativity of a Joe Brady offense, don’t expect huge pass volume to propel Darnold.
Draft Sharks Bottom Line
Only 24, Darnold has time to turn his career around. The Panthers provide an upgrade across the board, save for an O-line that remains a question mark.
As for Darnold, though, we just haven’t seen anything more than the occasional flash to forecast a breakout. A small step forward is pretty much a lock, but don’t bank on Darnold as anything more than a fantasy spot-starter.