Fantasy Impact- Darnold to Panthers

In case you missed it, Sam Darnold was finally traded by the New York Jets for three draft picks to the Carolina Panthers- here we look at the fantasy impact. From a redraft and dynasty aspect.

In the end, the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft left New York as an afterthought just a few shorts years after being deemed the next savior of the franchise.

Now in your typical redraft fantasy football league, this deal doesn’t have a ton of fantasy implications just yet, but in dynasty leagues there is much more of an immediate impact to dive into. We’ll start with the latter as we dissect Darnold to Carolina.

Dynasty Impact

Sam Darnold – Up

The player most impacted is actually Sam Darnold himself, especially in dynasty leagues (although he might also get a slight boost as a late draft pick in deeper redraft formats). Darnold’s situation has improved dramatically. Over the past couple weeks, it seemed more and more likely that the Jets would select a quarterback in the 2021 NFL Draft. That meant Sam would be relegated to a placeholder, backup, or traded.

Now before we get to the Panthers offensive unit, the complaint from Darnold-truthers has always been that the Jets organization put him in a terrible position to win. Miserable offensive line, a foolish transition to head coach/QB mentor Adam Gase during a crucial crossroads of his NYJ career, and a lackluster group of weapons at the skill positions around him (leading to the horrendous PFF grades below). None of those same excuses will exist in Carolina.

The Panthers have an adequate blocking unit, but the tantalizing potential comes at the skill positions. Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, David Moore and former Jet Robby Anderson headline an arsenal of weapons that far exceeds anything Darnold ever had in New York. The other positive for Sam is offensive coordinator/guru Joe Brady, the man at the helm of LSU’s ridiculous offensive explosion during Joe Burrow’s Heisman campaign. If you’ve had Darnold in dynasty since his rookie year, now is the time to decide whether to trust in his rejuvenation (only 24 years old in ’21 season), or SELL while his stock is at new highs.

Teddy Bridgewater – Down

Talk about deja vu for Teddy Bridgewater. During a brief tenure with the Jets, Darnold actually overtook Teddy B as the starter in camp after being drafted third overall. Bridgewater ended up being a sign-and-trade asset for Gang Green, and he didn’t end up starting a game until a Drew Brees injury in New Orleans. Carolina gave him an opportunity in 2020 based on his performance with the Saints, but clearly Bridgewater has not done enough to impress the Panthers brass.

Now Teddy’s dynasty stock is again at an all-time low, leading to either a backup role in 2021, or another trade in which he would have to compete for a starting job.

Confirmed Rookie Starter in New York

Depending on who the Jets draft at No. 2 overall in late April, there is a confirmed rookie starting quarterback in New York (most likely BYU Cougar Zach Wilson). That means a few things;

  • That rookie QB should gain draft stock as a starter in redraft leagues, and possibly dynasty leagues if the Jets history doesn’t scare you off.
  • That rookie QB will be tied to new NYJ offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur (younger brother of Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur), who is a clear disciple of the Kyle Shanahan coaching tree (was with Shanahan in Cleveland, Atlanta and San Francisco).
  • Value check on Jets fantasy playmakers (Corey Davis, Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims, Tevin Coleman, Chris Herndon, etc.)? You would have to assume a rookie QB might initially hurt these players in fantasy, unless of course that prospect becomes a bonafide superstar — which would be an upgrade over Darnold. This all depends on if you trust a LaFleur-Wilson or LaFleur-Fields type combination leading the Jets offense.

Redraft Impact

The immediate impact in redraft leagues is largely up for debate. As I mentioned above, Darnold should get a slight boost in draft value, but he’s still a QB2/potential sleeper. In deeper leagues, he will hold upside as a late round pick. In turn, Bridgewater is currently downgraded to an AVOID tag (could change if he gets shipped somewhere else). More will surface on the Jets and their skill position players after the draft and in preseason (when we get a longer look at this offense in action). The only redraft impact worth talking about right now is with the Panthers playmakers.

Robby Anderson – Up

Both Anderson and Moore already got a fantasy boost from the absence of Curtis Samuel in 2021, but this move definitely helps Robby as he links back up with his ex-QB. The undrafted Temple product was always a favorite of Darnold’s, I mean check out these numbers from 2018-19.

Considering Sam has a career completion percentage of 59.8, you can just feel the trust between him and Anderson at 88.5. Darnold isn’t a great deep ball passer, but he’s a better one than Bridgewater, which should also help Anderson’s game in 2021.

David Moore – Down

Going from Russell Wilson to Bridgewater would not have been ideal either, but Wilson to Darnold is a major downgrade in quarterback ability for David Moore. The former Seahawk will likely be battling for snaps with Keith Kirkwood anyway, so as of now the lesser of the two Moore’s should start redraft pools in free agency.

Christian McCaffrey – Neutral

A quarterback change of this minutiae shouldn’t affect a player as talented as CMC. For fantasy managers, McCaffrey’s health will be the primary concern in 2021, but the PPR appeal is always at the forefront of their minds as well. Bridgewater was a bit of a Checkdown Charlie in Carolina, which benefited Mike Davis is fantasy (CMC’s role when healthy). The good news for McCaffrey faithful is that Darnold does an excessive amount of short passing as well. I doubt CMC’s functionality changes in this offense, especially with Joe Brady calling the plays and maximizing his involvement.

Final Thoughts on Darnold

As a Jets fan who watched Darnold for the past three seasons (and defended him more often than not), I totally lost faith in Sam in 2020. His poor decision-making has led to countless mistakes, and because he’s been a class act off the field I feel many fans have stood up for him gratuitously. Fact of the matter is; he’s missed three or more games in each of his campaigns, totaled 59 turnovers compared to 50 touchdowns, has a career yards per attempt of 6.6 (weak arm), ranked 30th for quarterbacks when throwing out of a clean pocket in 2020 (according to PFF), and has never really displayed the intangibles of a consistent franchise quarterback. If you can get a decent return for him right now, I would deal Sam in dynasty formats and regroup with this 2021 rookie class.

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Image Credit: Rich Barnes – USA TODAY Sports