When Jets QB Sam Darnold was drafted back in 2018, there was always going to be a comparison that followed him throughout his NFL career with the other highly-touted quarterbacks that were taken in that class.
Other than Darnold, Ravens QB Lamar Jackson, Bills QB Josh Allen and Browns QB Baker Mayfield -- the first overall pick in that draft class -- make up the top four options from that year. Josh Rosen was also selected by the Cardinals, but since Kyler Murray came in as the No. 1 pick last year, he has found himself struggling in Miami.
But now that two seasons have gone by, where does Darnold stack up among the rest of his peers?
Well, for starters, we all know Jackson solidified himself as one of the top players in the NFL last season, securing the league MVP with Baltimore. And that brings us to our first category of total touchdowns thus far in two seasons, where Jackson has 54 following his 2019 that saw a league-leading 36 passing touchdowns to go along with seven on the ground, as he dazzled for 1,206 yards rushing as well.
For Darnold, he ranks last among the four...
- Jackson: 54
- Mayfield: 52
- Allen: 47
- Darnold: 39
Darnold won't make the excuse, but the Jets' receiving options over the past two seasons don't compare to who the other quarterbacks got to work with.
For Mayfield, players like Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr. and David Njoku have been on his side. And this past season where he took a leap forward, Allen got to work with the speedy John Brown and Cole Beasley, while Zay Jones corralled seven touchdowns the season prior as well. Jackson also had a plethora of options from his multiple tight ends like Mark Andrews to Marquise Brown and even Mark Ingram out of the backfield.
Darnold also wasn't able to get into a groove like Jackson and Allen did in 2019 -- Mayfield was up and down all season long -- due to mono complications. He missed three games last season, and the same amount in 2018 with an ankle injury. So when it comes to total starts, Darnold is once again low on the list
- Mayfield: 29
- Allen: 27 (one playoff start)
- Darnold: 26
- Jackson: 22 (two playoff starts)
There is also total passer rating to look at:
- Jackson: 104.7
- Mayfield: 85.9
- Darnold: 81.1
- Allen: 78.2
And Darnold has put together some solid game-winning drives over his short career thus far. However, Allen rises above the rest in this category:
- Allen: 8
- Mayfield: 5
- Darnold: 4
- Jackson: 1
All in all, these stats and comparisons come down to one thing at the end of the day: wins. When quarterbacks get starts and collect wins on Sunday, that's all that matters.
Here's how it looks in the regular season:
- Jackson: 19-3
- Allen: 15-12
- Darnold: 11-15
- Mayfield: 12-17
The Ravens went 13-2 in Jackson's 15 starts last season, with an 11-game winning streak that led into their disappointing playoff loss to the Titans. As mentioned, Allen took a step forward, and so did the Bills as a whole with a wild card berth at 10-6.
In Darnold's case, he still managed to make the most out of what he had on offense last season, especially trying to find a rhythm in the first year of Adam Gase's system. Though the Jets went 7-9 overall, Darnold was 7-6 (and there are certainly times where he can thank the defense for that win).
This offseason, though, GM Joe Douglas did his part in revamping the offensive line and getting Darnold a couple new receivers in Breshad Perriman and Denzel Mims, a second-round pick out of Baylor. Along with Jamison Crowder, this receiving corps -- if healthy -- should be the best Darnold has seen in his three years.
There is still much football left to be played with these quarterbacks, but Year 3 is where all the training wheels come off. Each quarterback has a starting role, and has developed into some sort of leader in the locker room. While some have made that leap forward already, others like Darnold are still awaiting that day.
We shall see what these four have in store for us in 2020.