According to Pro Football Focus, the Indianapolis Colts are the predicted landing spot for New York Jets young quarterback Sam Darnold:
Prediction: The Colts acquire Sam Darnold from the New York Jets via trade
With Deshaun Watson on his way to New York in these predictions, Darnold will be sent packing. Indianapolis sounds like the most likely place to try to revive the 2018 No. 3 overall pick — which was ironically the Colts’ pick to begin with.
Darnold has flashed a troubling combination of inconsistency, inaccuracy and poor decision-making throughout his NFL career. Since entering the league, he ranks second-to-last in passing grade, last in big-time throw rate, third-to-last in turnover-worthy play rate and third-to-last in accurate pass rate on throws beyond the line of scrimmage. Given what we know about Darnold, a breakout in Year 4 or beyond would be an even bigger anomaly than what we witnessed with Josh Allen this past season.
The former 3rd overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft is still just 23 years old and is a bit of a gunslinger, blessed with a strong arm and some mobility—but needs to get rid of some bad acquired habits, having played for a very poor New York Jets team to begin his career.
Things could come full circle for Darnold in Indianapolis, if Colts general manager Chris Ballard, who previously traded the 3rd overall pick in 2018 to the Jets for the 6th overall pick and a draft haul of picks, ultimately ends up acquiring the former top USC pick regardless—albeit at a much cheaper price tag than initially paid by the Jets.
Darnold is coming off an underwhelming 3rd season for the Jets in which he completed 217 of 364 pass attempts (59.6%) for 2,208 passing yards, 9 touchdowns, 11 interceptions, and a passer rating of 72.7 during 12 starts in 2020—having missed some time with a shoulder injury for one of the league’s worst teams at 2-14.
Darnold has shown flashes of this immense talent and potential, but he’s been negatively impacted by a lack of supporting cast and coaching with New York, and it’s hindered his development.
Unlike a top rookie, Darnold isn’t a fresh ball of clay ready for molding, as he’s already endured ‘scarring’ from his time with the Jets (a la former Houston Texans 2002 #1 overall pick David Carr, who was brutalized behind center with the NFL’s most recent expansion franchise with a lack of help)—as Darnold has admittedly ‘seen ghosts’ in the past.
The question for the Colts is whether Darnold’s still salvageable. The youth and talent are theoretically still there, if Indianapolis head coach Frank Reich can ‘hit the reset button’ and help build Darnold back up entirely from scratch—which will be no easy feat.
Still, with the Colts, Darnold would be backed by a power running game led by Jonathan Taylor, a strong offensive line (assuming Indianapolis can shore up left tackle), and a defense that’s been borderline elite at times (but needs to get more consistent).
He’d have much more help than he ever had with the Jets—while having the benefit of playing in Reich’s ‘quarterback-friendly’ offensive system.
The cost for Darnold is unclear, perhaps the Colts second round pick?
However, given the lack of available starting quarterback upgrades, and the significantly discounted price that Darnold presents to trading up for a top rookie passer in the 2021 NFL Draft, his acquisition could make quite a deal of sense for the Colts this offseason.
It’s just a matter of whether Frank Reich firmly believes he can fix him.