Daniel Jones, Sam Darnold
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images, AP Photo

When it comes to New York quarterbacks, former NFL QB Dan Orlovsky thinks choosing between Sam Darnold and Daniel Jones is easy.

Danny Small

The Sam Darnold vs. Daniel Jones debate is a natural byproduct of having two teams occupy the same town. Both the New York Jets and Giants invested top-10 picks on the quarterback position in recent years and as a result, the world will always compare the two.

However, former NFL quarterback and current ESPN analyst Dan Orlovsky doesn’t think this is even up for debate. It’s Darnold running away with it.

“Sam Darnold, that’s an easy answer for me,” Orlovsky said on the My Sports Update podcast. “I think Sam Darnold is one of the most talented guys at that position that has come out of the draft in years.”

Orlovsky continued to heap praise on Darnold. Part of the reason why he is so high on Darnold is because of how poorly the Jets have built around their young quarterback up to this point. The offensive line has been a sieve in recent years and the skill-position players are subpar as a unit.

“I think anyone that tries to sit here and try to tell you that they can make an honest evaluation of Sam Darnold is lying,” Orlovsky explained. “There’s absolutely no way, he’s had the bottom five offensive line when it comes to pass blocking and run blocking his first two years. He’s had change over at coach and offensive coordinator and they probably have the least talented roster skill position-wise in the NFL over the last two years.”

“You mean to tell me that Lamar Jackson, who has been absolutely remarkable, if he got drafted by the Jets, he wins MVP — No. You mean to tell me that if Sam Darnold goes to a team that has a top-five run game, similar to the Ravens, and a top-five defense, similar to the Ravens — we don’t have a very different outlook on Sam Darnold.”

Yes, that’s Orlovsky comparing Darnold to reigning MVP Lamar Jackson. It’s not as crazy as it may sound. The Jets have an ascending defense that can control games, but the improved offensive line is the biggest thing that should change the way most casual NFL fans view Darnold.

Orlovsky would also go on to compare Darnold to two top-tier quarterbacks—Ben Roethlisberger and Tony Romo. Darnold isn’t quite as big as Roethlisberger, but he has a similar ability to fit passes into tight windows when he has defenders draped all over him. To be clear, Darnold is much better when he has a clean pocket, but his size and athleticism are comparable to Big Ben.

Romo, on the other hand, is a good comparison to Darnold because of their ability to keep their eyes downfield. Darnold has decent legs and is fully capable of scampering for first downs when necessary, but he always has his eyes down the field before he tucks it. His throw to Robby Anderson against the Oakland Raiders last season is a perfect example of this unique skill.

Sidenote: Darnold and Jones, along with Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen, are set to appear on a 30-minute CBS special with Romo airing on May 24.

Now, backtracking to the other guy—Daniel Jones. Orlovsky’s praise of Darnold shouldn’t be seen as a slight towards Jones. After all, Darnold is a year further in his development so he should be the choice at this stage in the game.

With that said, Orlovsky still has concerns about whether or not Jones can live up to his status as the sixth-overall pick. Although most fans would point to Jones’ carelessness with the ball, arm strength is the main thing that concerns Orlovsky.

“I will say though, Daniel Jones surprised me. I was very, man, what does Daniel Jones have in his game that makes him the sixth pick of the draft. You know, when you go sixth it’s like you’ve got to be franchise-changing, transcendent talent, and I just didn’t see that with Daniel.”

“I want to see where his arm strength goes, again to become great, which is what you have to be when you are the sixth pick, you’ve got to overcome and his arm is just okay.”

Sure, these concerns from Orlovsky are valid, but it’s also worth noting that Jones was playing behind an underwhelming line last season and his skill-position guys were banged up all year long. Saquon Barkley missed three games, Golden Tate was handed a suspension, and once again, Evan Engram was in and out of the lineup every week.

Much like the Jets, the Giants attacked the offensive line in the draft. Big Blue was the first to take an offensive lineman, opting for a rock-solid tackle from Georgia—Andrew Thomas. They also added UConn tackle Matt Peart for depth in the later rounds.

Combine the upgraded line with a healthier group of skill players and we might be having a different conversation about Daniel Jones this time next year.

Simply put, both New York quarterbacks have the potential to become franchise-changing players, but they can’t do it alone. Darnold has showcased more of those rare talents that only the elite quarterbacks in the league have, but Jones has shown flashes of brilliance in the past as well.

But when we are forced to choose between one or the other, it isn’t much of a choice. Anyone who wouldn’t take Darnold is crazy. In fact, Orlovsky would take him over most quarterbacks drafted in recent years.

“But for the next 10 years, I’m still taking Sam Darnold,” Orlovsky concluded. “I’m taking Sam Darnold over every young quarterback that’s come into the NFL in the last three years.”

And yes, that includes MVP Lamar Jackson.

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