Sam Darnold
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Does Sam Darnold Have Any Fantasy Value On the Panthers?

After a miserable three years in New York, Sam Darnold was traded to the Carolina Panthers in the 2021 offseason. Darnold, who is only 24, goes from big market New York to small market Carolina. He gets an upgrade at almost every position of the organization, including a better supporting cast and a competent head coach in Matt Rhule. So, how much fantasy value does Darnold have for the Panthers?

Starting at the coaching position alone, Darnold goes from the bumbling idiot in Adam Gase to Matt Rhule and Joe Brady. I do respect Adam Gase for being as bad of a coach he is and staying in the NFL for as long as he did. I think Matt Rhule has a chance to be a really good coach. He turned around two programs in Baylor and Temple and looks to do the same with Carolina. Joe Brady is a dynamic young play-caller who is out for blood in 2021. Brady, after being the talk of the town when LSU won the National Championship in 2019, was an afterthought in 2020. It was clear that Rhule and Brady needed a more dynamic athlete at quarterback and were sick of Teddy Bridgewater’s inability to push the ball down the field.

Next, the offensive weapons on Carolina are pretty damn good. At the running back position alone, Darnold goes from having the fossil that is Frank Gore to arguably the best running back in the league in Christian McCaffrey. McCaffrey can help Darnold in the passing game and take some pressure off Sam with how dynamic a runner he is. At the wide receiver position, DJ Moore and Robby Anderson are two vertical threats that will hopefully help Darnold push the ball down the field. Anderson played with Sam for two seasons in New York, so there is some familiarity between the two.

Darnold has been a bad fantasy quarterback the past two years in New York. In 2019 and 2020, of all quarterbacks, he finished as the 27th and 33rd, respectively. The last time I checked, there are 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL. He had has zero fantasy value during his time with the Jets. Although Darnold missed four games in 2020, Dak Prescott finished with more total fantasy points than Sam while playing in only 4.5 games.

I have two question marks concerning Darnold’s fantasy value. First, their offensive line is pretty bad. Even though PFF is a bunch of idiots, they have the Panthers offensive line ranked 31st heading into 2021. In New York, it seemed like Darnold was running for his life, which led to several erratic throws and interceptions. The second question mark I have is about Sam Darnold himself. Is he just going to be drastically better now that he is not with Adam Gase? Can he have a Ryan Tannehill-like resurrection with his career, or is he just not a good NFL quarterback? I don’t think you can pull the trigger on Darnold until we see him play in a couple of games for the Panthers. However, if he looks good and your quarterback goes down in week 5, Darnold could be a valuable pick-up.

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