The Carolina Panthers head to organized team activities with Sam Darnold at the top of their quarterback totem pole. While having an established QB1 is ideal for most teams, Darnold, who has routinely stumbled since being selected third overall in the 2018 NFL Draft by the New York Jets, is hardly a signal-caller with Carolina.
How Sam Darnold’s status as Panthers QB1 impacts the 2022 season and beyond
Darnold was acquired by the Panthers last offseason for a trio of picks, including second- and fourth-round picks in 2022, and the franchise immediately picked up his fifth-year option for this season. Poised to make a guaranteed $18.9 million this season, the Panthers essentially volunteered to have Darnold as their starting quarterback in 2022 without proving what he brought to their offseason last year.
The Panthers (rightfully so) moved into this year’s QB class in the first two rounds after failing to land potentially franchise-altering QB Deshaun Watson in a trade. So his options came down to Darnold or a disgruntled, well-paid Baker Mayfield in a trade with Cleveland. The problem with the Mayfield acquisition is that Darnold is already on the books at a comparable salary. Dedicating more than $37 million to a QB competition would be stupid at best, and staggeringly silly at worst.
So from now on, Darnold remains on top of the depth chart. While the Panthers probably aren’t thrilled with his QB situation, they have tried to improve Darnold’s environment after he was sacked 35 times in 12 games (11 starts). The team selected NC State OT Ikem Ekwonu with the sixth overall pick, and he should help keep Darnold on his feet this season.
Last year, Darnold threw for 2,527 yards, nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions. That horrible stat line was largely accomplished without former Pro Bowl running back Christian McCaffrey, who is expected to return with a clean bill of health. Darnold will continue to get help in the passing game with teammate Robby Anderson and standout DJ Moore at wide receiver. Carolina also signed former Baltimore Ravens center Bradley Bozeman to improve the blocking directly against Darnold this season.
While Darnold clearly controls the QB reins heading into camp, he will be pushed by third-round pick Matt Corral, who dropped out of the draft presumably due to off-field concerns. Corral is a plus athlete at the position and has an arm that makes all the throws.
If Darnold struggles early on, which based on his NFL history remains a very likely scenario, the Panthers could turn to the youngster. That said, Darnold, who turns 25 next month, should have a worthwhile stint to show that he can finally fulfill his promise in the draft, albeit with his No. 2 NFL team. – Mike Kaye, NFP Senior NFL Reporter
How the Panthers’ quarterback situation affects the mainstays of fantasy football in Carolina
Remember that fun three-week window early last season when Darnold ripped off three straight 300-yard passing games and people started wondering if he was back? Yes, those were fun times. However, as we know, Darnold did not return. I can’t even say that he ever “made it” in the first place. However, if Darnold can turn around Year 2 with the Panthers, fantasy football coaches could be rewarded for their confidence on draft day.
Darnold has one of the easiest jobs in the NFL. Turn around and pass the ball to McCaffrey. Otherwise, control the ball and let McCaffrey do his thing in open space. Sure, this is an oversimplification, but the job of getting him the ball will be Matt Rhule’s main focus each week.
Since 2018, McCaffrey has averaged 25.6 fantasy points per game and finished as RB2 or better in 90% of his games. In 2021, he scored 24-plus points in four of seven starts. But therein lies the problem that has plagued McCaffrey for the past two seasons. Since 2020, he has struggled to stay on the field, missing 23 games.
I wouldn’t be surprised if McCaffrey’s volume takes a bit of a hit as the team tries to keep him healthy, rotating in Chuba Hubbard and D’Onta Foreman. Whether or not you are “in” McCaffrey has to do with his confidence that he will stay healthy, not Darnold’s hopeful transformation.
The player likely to be affected by Darnold’s play is Moore. In Moore, Carolina has a bona fide number one goal. He is coming off his third straight season of 1,200-plus total yards, the longest streak among NFL wide receivers.
Even in a year in which Darnold struggled and wasted time, Moore finished the season with 163 goals (sixth-most) and finished 10th in yards (1,157). He was also fourth in individual goal percentage (28.35%), third in passing yards (1,727) and was the WR9 in xPPR (expected fantasy points) with 15.46.
However, due to inefficiency, he was outside the top 150 at his position in FPOE (fantasy points over expectations) at -1.67 per game. What’s strange, though, is that for the first four weeks when Darnold was dealing, Moore was one of the most efficient receivers at +4+ FPOE/game.
So the volume is there for Moore to dominate in 2022 if his goal efficiency rises toward league average. If Darnold can do that, they could both have stellar seasons in 2022. Moore remains one of my favorite draft targets based on his ADP. – Tommy Garrett, NFP Senior Fantasy Analyst
How the Panthers’ quarterback situation affects Carolina’s betting odds
As of May 23, the Panthers’ season win total was six in Draft Kings sports betting. Only the Houston Texans, New York Jets, Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks have a lower over/under. While the Panthers have talented offensive players like Moore and McCaffrey, almost the entire reason for their dismal outlook is their quarterback situation.
I’ve already placed a bet on the bass. This team hasn’t won more than five games in a season since 2018, and Darnold is arguably Carolina’s worst starting quarterback since Jimmy Clausen in 2010.
There’s still a chance the Panthers will trade for Baker Mayfield or Jimmy Garoppolo. Either one would certainly give sportsbooks a bit of a bump in their winning total. However, if the Panthers enter the season with Darnold starting, I’d expect them to have fewer than six wins and be underdogs in almost every game they play this season. – Jason Katz, NFP Fantasy & Gambling Analyst
How Carolina’s quarterback situation could affect their plans for the 2023 NFL Draft
The initial premise for the 2023 NFL Draft is simple: Carolina needs a franchise quarterback. But the solution to acquiring such a QB remains elusive. The Panthers shifted their 2022 draft capital to bet on Darnold. That hasn’t worked out, and while Darnold may get one more chance to prove himself, the odds of things finally working out for him are surprisingly low.
It makes sense, then, to turn our gaze to the Panthers’ 2022 third-round pick in Matt Corral. Corral has upsides, and if Darnold continues to disappoint early in 2022, the rookie caller could see his name named sooner rather than later. But while Corral has potential with his athleticism, competitive toughness and springy arm, his movie didn’t do him any favors in his draft-day descent.
Corral’s film at Ole Miss shows up, and not much else: The former Rebel still has a long way to go with his progression work and independent decision-making. Barring a great rookie season in relief from Darnold, he shouldn’t stop the Panthers from looking at QB in early 2023.
That’s where the silver lining comes in for Carolina. Right off the bat, the 2023 NFL Draft quarterback class looks considerably stronger at the top, with Ohio State QB CJ Stroud leading the way.
Stroud very well could have been QB1 of the class of 2022, had he been eligible. He is a good enough athlete with an excellent arm, but the operational side of the game from him is even more impressive, especially for his age. He is smart, disciplined in the pocket, extremely precise and can use his eyes to manipulate DB like a pro.
Beyond Stroud, there’s also Bryce Young, as well as high-profile passers like Will Levis, Spencer Rattler and Anthony Richardson. If Carolina falters with a poor QB game, they could have a 5-10 pick amid a regime change. And they would be in a position to capitalize on what should be a stronger QB class. – Ian Cummings, NFP NFL Draft Analyst
We would love to give thanks to the author of this post for this awesome material
NFP Roundtable: How Does The Panthers’ Quarterback Situation Impact Sam Darnold On Fantasy, Betting Odds, 2023 NFL Draft & More? – World News In Spanish