Fantasy Football Absurdity Check: Same Old Sam Darnold?

Through the first four weeks of the season, we were riding high on Sam Darnold. The most recent release from the Adam Gase Penitentiary for the Criminally Terrible at Football started off his Carolina Panthers’ career as hot as hot can be. Unfortunately, since his hot start, Sam Darnold has completely fallen off the map, notching two-straight fantasy performances under 15 fantasy points. At this point, we have to decide what we do with the hot streamer candidate from early in the season. With that in mind, let’s find out if Sam Darnold is droppable. Is he still the same Sam Darnold we saw on the Jets, just in new colors?

Yes. Thank you for reading!

But, let’s go longer in this evaluation. The idea behind Sam Darnold’s resurgence is that freedom from Adam Gase would lead to a fantasy football revolution. Instead, what we’ve seen has been the same old Sam Darnold that we saw at the end of his Jets’ tenure. Sam Darnold missed two games in the middle of the 2020 season, and played six games after that point. He just completed his sixth game with the Carolina Panthers, so it would behoove us to compare these two equal sample sizes to see if Sam Darnold is still the same Darnold we knew on the Jets, a droppable commodity who really couldn’t sniff his way onto fantasy football rosters.










Last 6 NYJ










First 6 CAR










 So, let’s start with the things that are the same, or virtually the same. Darnold’s completion percentage is within half a percent, and his yards per attempt is about a foot better. His yards per carry is virtually identical. So all of that is pretty much the same. The major differences? The Panthers let him pass nine more times per game than the Jets did, and they let him rush the ball an extra time. That’s… pretty much it from a sustainability perspective.

Three major things stand out to me, two bad and one good… that is actually bad. First, his touchdown rate and interception rate. I am classifying these as the two bad things. First, he had a higher touchdown rate in his last six games in New York than he had in his first six games with the Panthers. Conversely, he had a lower touchdown rate to finish up his Jets career than he had in the first six games of his Panthers stint. So, he’s throwing the ball more, and he’s worse with the ball, is what this tells us. Is that bad?

But, through it all, Sam Darnold sits as QB11 on the season, averaging 20.2 fantasy points per game. That too, is a statistical lie. Look at his touchdowns. “Cam” Darnold as people took to calling him (it’s me, I’m people) notched five touchdowns in his first four games, on 20 rush attempts (25% touchdown rate). Prior to 2020, Darnold had five rushing touchdowns… on 114 rush attempts (4.3% touchdown rate). Unless you think that Darnold suddenly became a rushing touchdown specialist, you always knew this would normalize. As of right now, 29 quarterbacks have double-digit rush attempts, averaging 0.71 fantasy points per rush attempt. How big is the gap? The difference between Sam Darnold’s fantasy points per rush attempt (1.58) than the #2 guy (Jalen Hurts, 1.13) is about the same as the difference between Jalen Hurts and the #19 quarterback, Baker Mayfield (0.69 fantasy points per rush attempt).

So, as we can see, Sam Darnold is basically the same Sam Darnold that we knew in New York, with two major differences: pass attempts and rushing touchdowns. Unfortunately for Sam Darnold managers, the pass attempts are worse per attempt (which is likely to continue). The other component of this—rushing touchdowns—is unlikely to continue. He is scoring touchdowns at an unsustainable rate, which leads to an insane number of fantasy points per rush attempt. This is likely to collapse.

So, no, Sam Darnold is not legitimate. His QB11 in fantasy points per game ranking is a lie. And we can’t believe his lies. You can drop Sam Darnold in 1QB leagues, he is not legitimate.

Do you want more 2021 NFL discussion? Then check out these links!


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About Jeff Krisko

You can follow me on twitter, @jeffkrisko for the same lukewarm takes you read here.

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