New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold has had a fascinating young career thus far. Many thought he’d be the No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, but that honor went to Baker Mayfield, with Darnold being the next passer selected two picks later. He flashed at times as a rookie, but turnovers, massive road struggles, and a 4-9 record left a lot to be desired heading into his sophomore campaign.
A lackluster 41-attempt, 175-yard game in a narrow Week 1 loss to the Buffalo Bills was not the way the former USC star wanted his second season to begin, but he had to wait five more weeks to get another crack at an NFL opponent. Darnold was diagnosed with mononucleosis, and missed Weeks 2, 3, and 5 (the Jets had a bye in Week 4). His absence sunk the Jets’ hopes of being competitive in 2019 (they went 0-3 without Darnold) and gave the football world one of the weirdest and most-memed graphics of the year.
Darnold returned in Week 6 and led the Jets to a 24-22 home victory over the Dallas Cowboys before losing three straight games to drop to 1-7. Although New York won six of their final eight games, Darnold ended 2019 with a season that really wasn’t much better than his rookie campaign.
The question now is: Will Darnold take the step forward many expected last year this season? Jets fans certainly hope so. What are reasonable statistical expectations for the third-year quarterback? Here are the totals posted by DraftKings Sportsbook:
Passing Yards: 3,600.5 (over -110; under -110)
Passing TDs: 22.5 (over -110; under -110)
Both of those totals represent career-highs for Darnold should he reach those benchmarks. How realistic is it that he gets there and is there money to be made wagering on either side of the equation?
Although Darnold has played exactly 13 games in each of the past two seasons, it’s hard to characterize mono as an “injury.” As such—and because he won’t get mono again—it would be unfair to project a games played total below 15. That factor established, we now need to figure out how often Darnold will throw in 2020. To do this, I split the difference between last season’s pass attempts per game average for Darnold and the Jets’ overall passing attempts. That calculates out to about 498 pass attempts for 15 starts in 2020.
Darnold has put up fairly consistent passing yards per attempt averages over his first two NFL seasons—6.92 yards per attempt in 2018 and 6.86 yards per attempt last season. Using his two-year average of 6.89 yards per attempt, that works out to 3,430.1 passing yards. While that’s under DraftKings’ posted total, Darnold would surpass the mark in my projections if he plays all 16 games. Wagering on either side of this bet is contingent on your personal games played projection.