The story of Sam Darnold’s NFL career is littered with unfulfilled potential. Darnold was a collegiate star during his USC career. Many NFL Draft analysts thought Darnold was a future NFL star, some proclaiming he was the best player in the draft. Darnold has become well-traveled since the 2018 NFL Draft.
Sam Darnold Has Played for 3 Teams in His Career
New York Jets
The Jets selected Darnold with the No. 3 overall selection in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft. The Jets coveted a franchise QB as they agreed to trade three second-round picks and the No. 6 overall pick to move up to secure Darnold.
Multiple teams have reached out to the New York Jets and inquired about trading for QB Sam Darnold, per league sources.https://t.co/7h1Fol26QM
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) February 7, 2021
The Jets named Darnold the Week 1 starter, and in hindsight, that may have been a mistake. Darnold became the youngest starting QB in the NFL since the AFL-NFL merger.
Darnold never fulfilled his potential with the Jets, but he did have some odd moments. Darnold stated he was “seeing ghosts” during a game where he was mic’d up.
Darnold suffered various injuries during his Jets career, which limited his progression. After three seasons, the Jets decided to move on from Darnold.
In the spring of 2021, the Jets traded Darnold to the Carolina Panthers for a 2021 sixth-round pick and 2022 second and fourth-round selections. Less than one month later, the team decided to exercise the fifth-year option on the former USC great.
— Win Big Sports (@WBSNsports) January 1, 2023
Darnold’s tenure in Carolina began with a bang as he led the Panthers to a 3-0 record in 2021. Many NFL analysts wondered if Darnold had turned the corner.
Unfortunately, Darnold suffered a fractured scapula during a loss to New England, which required the team to send him to the injured reserve. Darnold only returned on Christmas Day, making the 2021 season another lost year.
In 2022, the Panthers held an open QB competition between Darnold and Baker Mayfield. The irony of the competition is many NFL analysts had Darnold and Mayfield as the top two QB prospects in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Darnold lost the QB competition to Mayfield, who was named the starter. Unfortunately for Darnold, the injuries struck again as a high ankle sprain required another stint on the injured reserve. Darnold was not activated until November and did not make a start for Carolina until Week 12.
Darnold’s Carolina career never materialized, and he left the Panthers organization in 2023.
San Francisco 49ers
— Justin Time Sports (@JTIMESPORTS) August 23, 2023
In the spring of 2023, the San Francisco 49ers signed Darnold to a one-year contract. Before the start of the 2023 campaign, the 49ers named Darnold the direct backup to starting QB Brock Purdy.