Sam Darnold is now a Carolina Panther. The latest NFL Trade provides clues on what to expect in the NFL Draft this year.

The Carolina Panthers have sent their sixth-round draft selection this year to the New York Jets, as well as next year’s second and fourth-round picks, for former Jets quarterback Sam Darnold. The third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft has seen a rocky road since leaving USC as a redshirt sophomore. His infamous “I’m seeing ghosts” statement on Monday Night Football has pretty much summarized his time in The Big Apple. It’s not been pretty.

Darnold’s lackluster three years in New York has been rooted in a bunch of different factors. Many point to the lack of consistency within the Jets organization and the terrible guidance of former head coach Adam Gase. Others say that the roster wasn’t ever there for him to succeed. Regardless, it’s been a rough transition for Darnold, who I had concerns with in 2018 about his readiness to play. New York has never been a great place to transition from college to the pros due to the pressure that the local media creates. Darnold has been no exception.

Let’s not get this twisted. Sam Darnold can most certainly play football. He’s flashed incredible ability at times throughout his career. He’s just not relaxed at the NFL level yet and hasn’t found that ability to keep his fundamentals while under pressure consistently. It’s still mechanical in the situations where he needs to be natural.

On the surface, this trade looks like a team moving on a failed prospect. However, upon taking a deeper dive into what’s been going on across the league, it’s much deeper than that. In this article, we are exploring some of the finer details to what this trade has spelled out in regards to the upcoming NFL Draft as well as other offseason factors.


What to take away from the Panthers acquiring Sam Darnold

I think the first takeaway from the trade is that head coach Matt Rhule and offensive coordinator Joe Brady has established the type of quarterback that the Panthers want in their scheme. With more of an improviser last year at the helm, the Panthers are trying to shift back to a quarterback that is more pocket-oriented. The traditional quarterback, so to speak. Darnold has the ability to improvise, but he’s primarily someone that you want to work from the pocket and pick apart defenses.

The Panthers were in need of a quarterback following a rough season with former Vikings and Saints quarterback Teddy Bridgewater at the helm. Bridgewater wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t the right man for the system. I think that became apparent about halfway through the season. Now, the question is what the Panthers plan to do with Bridgewater’s big contract that they signed him to in the last offseason. He accounts for $20M in dead cap this year, and $5M next year, due to his $33M guaranteed in the contract.

The Panthers plan to accept Darnold’s fifth year option, per Jonathan Jones on Twitter.

This means that they plan on having him around at least two years. I’d expect the Panthers to try to load some weapons for his disposal in the draft this year as a result.


The Jets are taking Zach Wilson with the second overall pick

This trade all but confirms that the New York Jets will be selecting a quarterback with the second overall selection. It’s also presumed across the league that the Jets will be taking Zach Wilson, the quarterback from BYU. The Jets tipped their hand when the Jets brassed all showed up to watch Wilson at his pro day. Wilson was relatively unknown before the season, affectionately nicknamed by Cougars faithful the “Morman Manziel.” It’s true, Wilson certainly plays with a little bit of Manziel to his game. His versatility of arm angles and quick release reminds people of Patrick Mahomes as well.

There are certain knocks on his game and for good reason. I wrote two months ago about a scout I spoke with who thought Wilson should go in the second round. Wilson struggled to play well against the higher-level competition, one of the first concerns that some NFL teams have, and would like him to sit for a while before playing. Now, assuming that the Jets do make this pick, he will be pressed into service just about immediately.

Wilson’s upside is exciting, but some caution should be taken by the Jets organization. Darnold wasn’t a finished product coming out of school. Wilson is too in the same boat. Some of his upper body technique (especially under pressure) doesn’t hold to NFL standards. Regardless, it looks like Wilson is the man that they have chosen to take with that second overall pick.


The Carolina Panthers have no faith in acquiring Mac Jones

It’s been floated following the Senior Bowl that the Carolina Panthers have a lot of interest in Alabama quarterback Mac Jones, who they coached the week of the event in Mobile, Alabama. Former Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum spoke very strongly about this last month on ESPN’s Get Up. Tannenbaum said that Jones would not get past the eighth overall pick.

Draftniks scoffed at the time, but clearly, Tannenbaum was onto something. Jones is currently the betting favorite to be the third overall pick to the 49ers, who gave up three first-round selections to move up from twelfth overall.

In the report, Tannenbaum spoke about how much the Panthers liked Jones while working with him at the Senior Bowl. The point? Jones is highly valued by the Panthers coaching staff and organization. They’d love to have him on the team. I think that this trade says that the anticipation is that Jones will not be on the board when the Panthers pick eighth overall. The anticipation around the league is now that the 49ers are going to select Jones at 3, as Senior Bowl director Jim Nagy suggested in his tweet.


Deshaun Watson is not moving from Houston this offseason

HOUSTON, TEXAS – DECEMBER 27: Quarterback Deshaun Watson #4 of the Houston Texans warms up prior to the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at NRG Stadium on December 27, 2020, in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

The Carolina Panthers were reportedly heavy suitors for the 2017 first-round pick Deshaun Watson, who had grown frustrated with the Houston Texans organization. However, a slew of civil lawsuits, currently 22 filed, over sexual misconduct has launched a league investigation.

While there is a lot to unpack and uncover as the legal process does its thing, I think it’s very clear that Watson isn’t moving anywhere until the league investigation is complete.

Regardless, the Panthers’ two top options appear to have fallen through. They won’t be acquiring Deshaun Watson and must continue along without him. As Mac Jones appears primed to be a top-five pick, the Panthers pulled the trigger on Sam Darnold to be the future of the franchise. Only time will tell whether it will be the right move.

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By John Vogel

NFL Draft Analyst. Dad.

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