Sam Darnold has had one hell of a season. From missing games with mono to seeing ghosts against the New England Patriots, he’s been the talk of the town and not in a good way. And when that town is New York City, everyone hears about it. Not only did this cause his NFL value to be questioned, but it also caused his fantasy football value to dip. However, now that he’s back and into a good rhythm in the offense, is Sam Darnold’s dynasty stock finally on the rise?
2018: An Unremarkable Rookie Year With Off-Season Rise
When dynasty fantasy football players drafted Sam Darnold in the 2018 rookie draft, he was supposed to be their quarterback of the future. He finished the season with a total of 168 fantasy points, 27th among QBs. He also helped in the fantasy playoffs, putting up 21 and 26 points in Weeks 15 and 16, respectively, which is not too shabby for a rookie signal-caller in today’s NFL. Some could even argue that he won them a fantasy title if they started him those weeks. This caused his value to take a slight bump in the off-season as more and more dynasty owners were buying in.
According to DLF’s monthly ADP data, Darnold was first being drafted in February of 2018 and his ADP was 188th overall. Throughout that first off-season, it stayed about the same, later reaching 170th during the season in October, a full round increase. After his solid finish to the year, dynasty players started taking the risk on him sooner, and his ADP peaked at 145 in April of 2019, two full rounds up from October 2018. This was also right around the time of 2019 rookie drafts, which is the highest it’s ever been for Darnold. His current ADP has stayed about the same, coming in at 153 for October of 2019.
Let’s take a quick look at how he compares to some of the other QBs in fantasy. Currently, his dynasty ADP is ahead of veterans like Tom Brady and Drew Brees, which isn’t a shock given his age, but he’s being taken after other youngsters like Kyler Murray, Baker Mayfield, and Lamar Jackson who have already made a name for themselves in the league. If anything, you could argue that Darnold’s bumpy start to 2019 could make this his floor in terms of stock value. The others may be better players now, but their value is likely going to stay about the same, whereas Darnold’s value has a lot of room for improvement.
2019: A New Year with New Challenges
In terms of on the field performance, Darnold is the QB17 in 2019 overall #PFNOSM data, which measures how much of a player’s statistical production they were actually responsible for. OSM, or Offensive Share Metric, is a proprietary way to single out players and show how much they bring to the team, not how much the team impacts their personal production. For reference, this puts him ahead of players like Carson Wentz, Aaron Rodgers, and Tom Brady for the season overall, meaning he’s doing plenty to affect his own results from a statistical standpoint.
Looking at all of these numbers, it’s easy to see that he has yet to truly break out in the eyes of dynasty owners, and his up and down 2019 stats haven’t helped much. After a wimpy 13 fantasy points in Week 1, Darnold missed the next three games with mono, forcing the New York Jets to start journeyman QB Trevor Siemian for a game and then QB Luke Falk for two after Siemian went down with an injury himself. It was an ugly start to the season for the Jets, to say the least.
Once Darnold got better and was back in the lineup, he didn’t do too poorly against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 6, throwing for 2 touchdowns and scoring 19 fantasy points. But then came the Patriots’ game in Week 7 where he threw 4 interceptions and no touchdowns. He was also mic’ed up so everyone could hear that he was “seeing ghosts out there” when facing the Patriots’ defense. He looked like a deer in headlights, and dynasty owners everywhere were regretting their pick of Darnold. His ADP value didn’t change much because of this, but it was easy to imagine him riding the bench in almost every league thereafter.
Since then, however, his stock has started to recover. He put up a bland 12 points in both Weeks 8 and 9 before showing off some of his true talents against the “crosstown” New York Giants in Week 10 when he put up a solid 21 fantasy points. In Week 11, he put up 25 points, the second-highest output in his career behind that Week 16 showing last season. In that game, he threw for 4 TDs against a stout Washington defense, spreading his 30 targets around to multiple receivers. We even listed him as a top waiver claim this week in our weekly waiver mock draft article.
It definitely looked like he put the ghosts behind him, but can he continue to produce, or will he fall back into the darkness? Part of the answer there relies on his own performance, and part of it relies on the other quarterback options in the league. There are lots of players that are seeing their dynasty stock fall. Players like Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Wentz, and Jared Goff were previously in the top-12 conversation, but thanks to injuries and poor performance, it’s likely that Darnold passes some if not all of them in the coming months.
All of this shows that Sam Darnold is poised to rise in dynasty football rankings and ADP in the coming months. Fantasy players that are looking for youth should definitely be targeting Darnold as a viable option, both in 1 QB and Superflex leagues, because it’s unlikely that his price will go down from here. If you’re rebuilding, Darnold is easily worth adding to your team since he’s so young, and if you’re contending, he could show up for you down the stretch the rest of this season as well. It sure seems like he’s turned the corner, and you don’t want to be late to the party. Buy him now before his value skyrockets.
Hit us up on Twitter @PFNFantasy with what you think about Sam Darnold this year and beyond. Also, continue to visit the Pro Football Network for NFL news and in-depth analysis like the #PFNOSM data while also visiting our Fantasy Football section for more coverage.
Andrew Hall is a writer for PFN covering Fantasy Football. You can follow him @AndrewHallFF on Twitter.