Just about every NFL rookie takes his share of lumps, especially when it’s a quarterback handed the starting role so early in his pro career.
In that way, Sam Darnold is no different from the average first-year starter as he learns on the fly under center for the New York Jets. After the first nine games this season, the numbers posted by the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft aren’t pretty.
Darnold sports a completion percentage of 55, a negative ratio of touchdowns to interceptions (11-14) and a passer rating of 68.3. Even among his peers, past and present, those numbers are an eyesore.
Over the past 20 seasons, there have been 34 rookie quarterbacks who attempted at least 200 passes in his team’s first nine games. All of these young QBs stepped into starting roles within the first month of the season or claimed the gig before Week 1, as Darnold did.
Among that group, Darnold owns the third-worst interception percentage (4.84 percent). Tossing four picks in Sunday’s 13-6 road loss to the Miami Dolphins and "just playing stupid," as he told reporters Monday, is one of the top reasons he rates so poorly in this regard. He’s also last in total interceptions, with one more than former Jets QB Geno Smith and current embattled Jacksonville Jaguars starter Blake Bortles. It’s worth noting that Mark Sanchez, another failed Jets franchise quarterback, sports a worse interception percentage.
Despite some impressive efforts, Darnold’s completion percentage also ranks in the bottom third of his peers. His falls are in the same ballpark as those of QB busts and former No. 1 overall picks Tim Couch and David Carr.
Does this mean Darnold is destined for failure? Not necessarily. Matthew Stafford overcame perhaps a poorer start to his rookie year to become a reliable franchise passer for the Detroit Lions. The same can be said of Carson Palmer, who enjoyed a lengthy career but did so with multiple franchises. Even the Indianapolis Colts’ Andrew Luck was roughly as accurate over his first nine starts, albeit with fewer turnovers.
Only time will tell if Darnold can improve, as Stafford and Luck did, or is destined to become another Jets QB bust.