Over 16 Games, Sam Darnold Would Have Ranked Well Among Other Young QBs

Kristian Dyer

Were the New York Jets able to start Sam Darnold for the entirety of the NFL season, their season could have been very different. And according to one simulation, Darnold’s season would have had a very different look statistically as well. 

Darnold missed three consecutive games beginning in Week 2 following a diagnosis of mononucleosis. The diagnosis and subsequent time on the sideline hurt the Jets offense and directly related to their three losses in those games that their starting quarterback missed. 

EA SPORTS ran a simulation of just those three games utilizing their Madden franchise for SportsIllustrated.com’s Jets Maven. In doing so, the simulation had the Jets go 2-1 in those games from Week 2 to Week 4 rather than losing all three games.  

In addition, Darnold put up some significant numbers, with 743 passing yards, eight touchdowns and three interceptions in those three simulated games. 

If those numbers had played out, his statistics for the season would have been impressive. Combining his 13 games played along with the three simulated games by EA Sports, Darnold’s season totals would have been 3,767 passing yards with 27 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. 

Had he finished with those stats, it would have been the fourth-most passing yards in a single season in Jets history. The 27 touchdowns would have been the third-most ever thrown in a single season by a Jets quarterback. 

In contemporary terms, numbers projected like those by Darnold stack up well in today’s NFL too. 

Those numbers would have compared favorably to Jimmy Garoppolo, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback who is in his sixth year in the league (3,978 passing yards; 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions). The 49ers are in the NFC Championship Game this Sunday. 

Among his peers this past season, Darnold’s projected numbers encapsulating his 13 games played along with the simulation of three games show well.  

Houston Texans third-year quarterback Deshaun Watson (3,852 passing yards; 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in 15 games) led the Texans to the playoffs but his production stacks up well compared to Darnold. Cleveland Browns second-year quarterback Baker Mayfield (3,827 passing yards; 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions in 16 games) struggled with turnovers like Darnold did early in the year. While he led his team to the playoffs, Buffalo Bills second-year quarterback Kyle Allen (3,322 passing yards; 17 touchdowns and 16 interceptions in 13 games) wasn’t statistically better than Darnold.  

And Chicago Bears third-year quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (3,138 passing yards; 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions) struggled to find his form from 2018 that made him a Pro Bowl quarterback. 

And while the EA SPORTS numbers are based off a simulation, the point remains that Darnold is not far away from the production of other quarterbacks at the same stage of development and maturation. While Lamar Jackson of the Baltimore Ravens remains an outlier in terms of his outstanding development, Darnold stacks up very well against other quarterbacks drafted in the past three seasons.