The Carolina Panthers made their move earlier this offseason to land what they hope to be the next face of the franchise at quarterback in Sam Darnold in a trade with the New York Jets.
Of course, Darnold isn't Deshaun Watson or Matthew Stafford (two QBs Carolina had trade interest in) but he's a young quarterback that still has a lot of good football in him. During his time in New York, the Jets miserably failed to surround him with any talent. They brought in veteran running back Frank Gore who is well past his prime and let Robby Anderson, arguably their most talented receiver, sign with the Panthers in free agency in 2020. To make matters worse, the Jets never made much of an effort to protect Darnold with a good offensive line. And oh yeah, he had Adam Gase as his head coach. Although he hasn't necessarily lived up to the expectations of being a No. 3 overall pick, he was dealt the worst hand possible. Bad coaching, poor offensive line play, and a lack of weapons make it tough for any quarterback to survive.
Toward the end of day three of the 2021 NFL Draft, ESPN NFL Draft analysts Todd McShay, Louis Riddick, and Mel Kiper Jr. had a very good segment when discussing the Carolina Panthers' performance in the draft and how they could be declared "winners" of the draft because of their acquisition of Sam Darnold earlier this offseason.
Here's what they had to say:
"Eight games that they lost by one score and I talked to Matt Rhule at the Senior Bowl that week and he was saying you know, we just need that dude. We need that guy that can lead that drive that we've been missing this past year. We feel like we're a more complete team than our record indicates and I agree with him. And now, you bring in Terrace Marshall, you bring in Shi Smith, obviously, you bring in Sam Darnold and immediately upgrades the quarterback spot - I think you're putting him in a position to really succeed. He's never had a Christian McCaffrey. He's never had an elite receiver, he's never had depth at wide receiver.."
"He hasn't had a lot of things throughout his career if you sit here and really think about it. What's interesting though is that when we talk about quarterback success/failure and we don't ever contextualize and add all these other factors into it that determine success or failure, you're really doing the guy a disservice. And I tell you, we know that Sam Darnold didn't get the kind of support that he's going to get down there and you're right Rece, they could very well have won this draft. You could see the very best of Sam Darnold moving forward. Now, all the people who have been naysayers of his are kind of sitting there biting their nails saying well, let's just see how this works out. If he does blow up in a good way, it's just going to let more credence to the fact that they [New York] didn't do enough to protect him."
Mel Kiper Jr.
"Where would you put Sam Darnold if he was coming out this year? Going back to his USC grade and knowing what you know now about Sam Darnold, fighting through all the issues, finishing all three seasons I thought, strong. I chronicled that the other night. Every last 5-6 games, he was putting up the numbers. In this draft, I would have him number two behind Trevor Lawrence. If we were drafting today, I would take Sam Darnold as the 2nd quarterback. What's the greatest teacher? In anything. It's experience. He's got the experience, he's only 23-years-old, he's battled through it all."
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