Former NFL GM Jeff Diamond on New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold's potential and ceiling

Kristian Dyer

Sam Darnold has the potential to be a top-end quarterback if the right talent is built around him. This is the message from former NFL general manager Jeff Diamond, who thinks that the New York Jets quarterback can grow into becoming a franchise quarterback.

It has been anything but an easy start to his NFL career for Darnold, taken No. 3 overall in the 2018 NFL Draft. Without any marquee weapons, behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league during that time and a diagnosis of mononucleosis early last season, an awful lot has been stacked against the young quarterback.

Despite the roadblocks, Darnold still showed improvement last year. He bettered his passing yards, touchdown to interception ratio and completion percentage and upped his win total from his rookie season as the Jets finished 7-9.

Diamond, a former general manager of the Minnesota Vikings and team president of the Tennessee Titans, was asked how Darnold stacks up against talent from around the AFC East. With no Tom Brady in the division, the arms race in the AFC East is suddenly wide open.

“I think with the right supporting cast, he’s right up there. Capable of being as good or better than any of those guys,” Diamond told SportsIllustrated.com’s ‘Jets Country.’

“I do think Tua can be a special talent if he stays healthy. I like his poise, his capability and his background. Tua’s an interesting guy down in Miami but he might not be starting Day 1. It might be [Ryan] Fitzpatrick. I think Darnold stands up pretty well. Josh Allen, he got the Bills into the playoffs. He still needs to take a step forward too. I think Darnold needs the talent around him…better pass protection, receiving crops, better production at running back…I still think he has a lot of potential.”

This offseason, the Jets offensive line was dramatically improved in free agency with several key starters added such as tackle George Fant, guard Greg Van Roten and center Connor McGovern as well as first round pick Mekhi Becton. The additions of free agent Breshad Perriman and second round pick Denzel Mims at wide receiver bolster the playmakers.

Projecting where Darnold can go and how he can develop isn’t easy says Diamond. Nonetheless, he likes his make-up and thinks he can mature into a good quarterback in the right setting.

He said to keep in mind that Darnold is still young. He turned 23-years old in early June.

“It’s really hard to say. Have to see how it plays out and how you see growth. He’s a very young guy, he’s still a young guy – what is he, 23 now? Really still a young player in the league,” Diamond said.

“Seems like he’s motivated and works hard and all that. It just comes down to does he have the right people around him? Coaches, players. Just too soon to tell. I’m certainly not ready to write him off. He has a lot of ability, a lot of potential. Just needs more of a supporting cast.”