Why the Washington Football Team should trade for Sam Darnold

This piece is part of the Riggo’s Rag Roundtable quarterback debate. For more Washington Football Team QB options, click here.

The Washington Football Team is still looking for a franchise quarterback, and it’s clear that player is not on the roster. Déjà vu.

But also, if they want a cheap lottery ticket at the position, look no further than Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, who could thrive in a new environment.

Why the Washington Football Team should trade for Sam Darnold

Darnold is only three years removed from being selected third overall in the 2018 draft, where he walked into a dysfunctional Jets organization.

After being named a Freshman All-American by the Football Writers Association of America, Darnold guided USC to the Pac-12 Conference Championship in his sophomore year, winning the game’s MVP.

His star has fallen a bit after three uneven years in the NFL. So far, he has a 59.8 career completion percentage and a 45-to-39 TD-INT ratio. Those numbers by themselves definitely don’t scream franchise quarterback, but let’s dive a little deeper into his situation, and compare it to other young quarterbacks in the NFL.

Darnold has been plagued with a lack of playmakers, a poor offensive line, and an overall horrible Jets team in his three years in the league. What can you really expect when a quarterback’s primary targets are Jamison Crowder and Breshad Perriman?

I like Crowder, but he was typically WR3 during his time in Washington and Perriman couldn’t even make it one week on Washington’s roster before being cut. A 37-year old Frank Gore wasn’t scaring any defenses and the Jets’ own porous defense didn’t provide much support either.

You saw the jump that Josh Allen made after upgrading from Zay Jones and Robert Foster to Stefon Diggs, going from a 56 percent completion rate and 3-to-2.1 TD-INT ratio in his first two seasons to a 69.2 percent completion rate and 3.7-to-1 TD-INT ratio.

What a difference a competent receiving corp can make.

Coming out of college, Darnold had a 64.9 completion percentage, with his scouting reports talking about his natural accuracy, his ability to throw receivers open, and his ability to throw on the run.

This play, via The Checkdown, epitomizes the talent that Darnold possesses. You can see him escape from the pocket, showing his mobility, and hit Braxton Berrios while on the run.

Imagine what he could do with Terry McLaurin and Logan Thomas.

Darnold isn’t a running quarterback, but his mobility has helped him not only helped him find receivers on the run, but he has shown that he can make things happen with his legs like he did on this play, per the NFL’s Twitter account.

Now, obviously, you can’t expect that on every play, but Darnold does have five career rushing touchdowns and averaged 8.0 yards per scramble in 2020. That ranks eighth among QBs with at least 15 scrambles.

Thus far in his young career, Darnold performed best in his second season, when the Jets had the seventh-ranked defense by yards. In his other two seasons, the Jets had one of the worst defenses in the league.

In 2019, Darnold completed 61.9 percent of his passes and threw 19 touchdowns compared to 13 interceptions, leading the Jets to a 7-6 record in his starts.

He faced pressure on 28 percent of his throws in 2019, third-highest among QBs with over 300 attempts, and suffered the fifth-highest drop percentage among QBs with over 300 attempts.

Despite all of that, he was on-target with his throws more than Aaron Rodgers, Josh Allen, and Marcus Mariota, which shows his potential for growth.

Darnold was only 21-years old when he was thrust into the starting role in New York and his stats aren’t too different from the first couple years of other young starters.

Alex Smith entered the league at 21 and in his first three years, he had an 11-19 record with a 54 completion percentage, while throwing 19 touchdowns to 31 interceptions.

Matthew Stafford, who many fans were hoping Washington traded for, also entered the league at 21 and in his first three years had a 13-16 record with a 59.7 percent completion rate and a 3.2 interception percentage.

Darnold has a 13-25 record while completing 59.8 percent of his passes and holding a 3.2 interception percentage. That fits right in with Smith and Stafford at this point in their careers.

In addition to his mobility, ability to throw on the run, and his untapped potential, I think the biggest reason Washington should pursue him is the cultural fit into what Coach Ron Rivera is trying to establish.

Rivera is looking for team-oriented players who have the right attitude. Prior to being drafted, many scouts and former coaches used the same verbiage when describing Darnold, focusing on his poise, grit, leadership, and humility. Those are ideal characteristics you look for in your team’s leader.

Will Darnold be able to turn into a Matthew Stafford-level player or produce like Ryan Tannehill has after leaving an Adam Gase-led organization? That’s the big question. And it is worth Washington to explore what it would take to get Darnold in burgundy and gold.

Click the links below to read about each QB option.

Roundtable: Which QB should the Washington Football Team target?