Despite going 4-9 as a starter for the New York Football Jets, Sam Darnold has some intriguing fantasy appeal and overall hype heading into the 2019 campaign. His numbers from his rookie season were subpar, but a new coaching regime and some added talent have the Jets looking their best in years. At face value, his rookie numbers aren’t indicative of a guy that has top-15 potential this season, considering that he ranked in the bottom-third of starters last season. In 13 games in 2018, Darnold threw for 2,865 yards (220.4 ypg), 17 touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

Do you happen to know what Josh Rosen , Lamar Jackson and Josh Allen have in comparison? They are the only three quarterbacks who posted a lower adjusted completion percentage than Darnold in 2018, per Pro Football Focus. Yikes. By that metric, Darnold wasn’t very good, and for the majority of the season, he was not a good quarterback in reality or fantasy. However, he ended the year on a bright note, and the maturation and development process started to rear its beautiful head.

Take a look at Darnold’s numbers in his first nine games of the season, compared to his final four.





Passer Rating

Rushing Yards

Total Fantasy Points (Fantasy Points per Dropback)

First 9 Games






30th (32nd)

Final 4 Games






14th (T-10th)


Over the final four weeks of the season, he threw six TDs to just one pick, and posted the second-highest passer grade, per Pro Football Focus. During this stretch, his aDOT was third-best in the league and he averaged the same amount of fantasy points per drop back as Indianapolis’ Andrew Luck . Furthermore, he was really airing it out during this time, as 16-percent of his targets (fifth-highest) were 20 or more yards downfield. Was this because he was maturing? Was this because he was becoming more comfortable in the offense? Was this because he realized he had Robby Anderson and had a more than capable receiver to track down the deep throws? It could be a bit of all of it, and playing some average to below average defenses during that span helped as well.

Regardless, the production over the final four weeks inspires confidence for what lies ahead in 2019 for the second-year franchise quarterback. Adding Jamison Crowder will help, and Le’Veon Bell will easily be the best rushing and receiving talent Darnold has had at the professional level. Adding Bell helps to boost the completion percentage by screens, dump-offs and short passes, but will also keep the defense honest. Then, let Anderson streak downfield and take your chances when you get them, even in the Adam Gase offense. Insert heavy sigh here.

On more than one occasion this spring, Darnold has come out and said that he would describe Gase’s offense as aggressive…. Huh? You can’t have Adam Gase and aggressive in the same sentence unless the words “is not” are between them. Gase’s offense is predicated on being conservative with the football, and it will be interesting to see how Gase deals with an aggressive young quarterback. Darnold may describe this offense as aggressive, but if it were to be that way in 2019, it will because of Darnold’s tendencies, not a shift in Gase’s philosophy. Per Next Gen Stats, Darnold was the fourth-most aggressive starting quarterback in the league, coming just a percentage point or two behind Josh Rosen , Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jameis Winston .

However, Miami’s quarterbacks were a bit more inclined to throw deep last season, as Ryan Tannehill actually ranked in the upper-third of quarterbacks in the National Football League in terms of deep passing percentage on total attempts. Take a look at Tannehill, and even Osweiler’s, ranks last season.


Attempts > 20 yards downfield

Ryan Tannehill


Brock Osweiler


Drew Brees


Deshaun Watson


Patrick Mahomes


Matt Ryan


Jared Goff


All in all, they weren’t too far off from others, but still a hair below. Perhaps the conservative nature of Gase is mitigated by Darnold’s gunslinger mentality. The thing to note in New York will be the pace. Gase’s offense is painfully slow, and they simply don’t run many plays. Sure, they couldn’t sustain drives last year, but even so, Miami ranked near the bottom of the league in recent years in terms of plays run and pace of play. Hopefully they play faster so he has more opportunities for fantasy owners in 2019.

So, how can Darnold get better in 2019? Well, some better luck would help. Per Pro Football Focus, Darnold was tied for the lead league in dropped passes on deep balls. Perhaps a few of those would have been touchdowns, or at the very least they boost his overall numbers. Additionally, if he continues at the play he did over the final four weeks of the season, we are looking at a potential top-15 quarterback. He isn’t going to set the world on fire with his rushing ability, but every little bit helps, and his average over the final four weeks of the season comes to 308 yards by seasons end, also known as an additional 30.8 fantasy points. Lastly, he’s more acclimated to the NFL game, and he has a full offseason as the unquestioned starter to grow in his role, and develop or strengthen his rapport with his new and returning targets respectively.

Darnold should make considerable jumps in his second year, and even with Adam Gase’s offense that moves at the pace of molasses, he should easily surpass his fantasy point total from last season and be well within the top 20 guys at the position. If he carries over his rushing production in the final four weeks of last season (77 yards), that should help him gain a couple spots.

Drafting Darnold as your QB1 is a risky bet, but he’s a solid QB2 in seasonal and best ball formats, as he should pop off for some big games throughout the course of the season.

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