The New York Jets haven’t had lots of luck with USC quarterbacks. But Sam Darnold isn’t Mark Sanchez, and Gang Green just changed their destiny with that pick.

The New York Jets have been in the midst of a lot of streaks lately, none of them worthy of running home to show mama. The selection of USC quarterback Sam Darnold with the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, thankfully, put an end to one of those streaks.

The Jets went nine years without taking an offensive player in the first round. For those wondering, yes, that’s the same number of absences that Ferris Bueller had during his senior year of High School.


Consider this: Keyshawn Johnson, the top overall pick in the 1996 NFL Draft, was the last Pro Bowl offensive player the Jets drafted. So yeah, it’s been a while since they took someone with Darnold’s upside.

It had become a yearly tradition in Jets chat rooms and on message boards to guess which defensive player the team would select, despite the lack of offensive talent on the team.

But that’s over, so let’s talk about the offensive talent the Jets drafted.

Who Is Sam Darnold?

He’s 20 years old—the youngest out of the top four quarterbacks selected—and really checks off all the boxes you look for as a prototypical NFL quarterback. Darnold is 6-foot-3, 221 pounds and can fit in any offense.

No one is a perfect prospect, and he has his fair share of issues, namely a wonky throwing motion. We’ve seen other quarterbacks, like NC State’s Philip Rivers, overcome that in the past. So that’s not a major concern.

More concerning and egregious is his penchant for turning the ball over. I know that’s giving Jets fans flashbacks to the last offensive player taken in the first round, a guy who just so happened to be from Darnold’s alma mater, USC—Mark Sanchez.

The mere mention of the name sends Jets fans screaming and running in the other direction. Don’t believe me? Let’s try some word association. I’ll say a phrase and you tell me the first thing that pops into your head. Ready?

  • “The Sanchize”
  • “Butt Fumble”
  • “Snoopy Bowl”

You know what you can do with those three phrases? Toss ’em in the dumpster. When people see Sanchez with the Trojan emblazoned on the side of his helmet and then see Darnold in the same uniform, the comparisons start.

Those are lazy, unfair and, quite frankly, simple-minded.

Sanchez was an equivalent of a one-and-done basketball player in college who heads to the NBA. While he was technically a junior coming out, he only played one full season at USC.

Darnold, meanwhile, has two full seasons under his belt with some impressive stats and film to back him up.

PlayerComp. %Passing YardsTDINTQB Rating
Darnold64.97,2295722153.7
Sanchez64.33,9654116153.9

 

New York Jets

Let’s get away from the numbers and dig into the stark differences between the two.

Sanchez rarely looked off safeties which got him into a lot of trouble. Darnold, on the other hand, takes what’s in front of him. It’s a super-underrated quality for a quarterback. Don’t complicate things: take what the defense gives you.

On top of that, multiple NFL scouts have told me that Darnold’s ceiling is Tony Romo, and I can see that. Romo is best known for getting the ball out of his hands quickly, and that’s what Darnold does. He has an uncanny ability to uncork the ball from his hands, it’s like a rubber band snapping.

Arguably the biggest difference between these players is their short-term memory and, arguably, their long-term memory as well. Let me explain.

Quarterbacks need a short memory, if you make a mistake, you’ve got to move on to the next series. Darnold is a special talent, someone who doesn’t get rattled. Sanchez, meanwhile, would let one bad play, turn into two, and then before you know it the game is over and Sanchez ended up with five interceptions.

I know there’s a negative contigent among the Jets faithful and usually things don’t go the Jets way. But smell the roses. The Jets have gotten lucky in the first round of three of the last four NFL Drafts.

You aren’t used to things going your way, I get that. But it’s a new era.

The Jets have Jamal Adams, Leonard Williams, and Darnold to be thankful for. The football gods have rewarded Jets fans for all the suffering over the last half a century.

Now, with a 20-year old at quarterback, the Jets are in a position to shift the power structure of the AFC East as soon as Tom Brady retires. Maybe even earlier.

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