The New York Jets are currently in the driver’s seat for the first overall pick in the 2021 NFL draft, which means they’re the front-runner for Clemson quarterback, Trevor Lawrence. And while this is great news for Jets fans who are hungry for a franchise-changing quarterback, it was just three years ago that they thought they drafted that guy in former USC standout, Sam Darnold.
Now three years into an underwhelming career, New York appears ready to move on from Darnold, who they spent the third pick in the 2018 draft to select. Darnold’s started 34 games for the Jets and has a career completion percentage below 60%. He’s thrown 41 touchdowns to 37 interceptions and has lost twice as many games as he’s won.
It’s time to move on.
What the Jets can’t do, however, is keep Darnold around in 2021 to serve as Lawrence’s backup. For as disappointing as Darnold’s been, he’d still be a distraction and could cause a rift in the event Lawrence struggles (as most rookies do) early in his career. Trading Darnold makes sense, but there has to be a trade partner willing to roll the dice on Darnold’s second act.
According to ESPN NFL draft expert, Mel Kiper, Jr., there are a handful of teams that could have interest in Darnold, assuming the price is right.
“Teams with veteran quarterbacks — New Orleans, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and San Francisco come to mind — could make sense as trade partners,” Kiper wrote on Wednesday.
As for the kind of compensation the Jets could get for Darnold? Kiper thinks a deal similar to what the Arizona Cardinals received for Josh Rosen in 2019 — a second- and fifth-round pick — is reasonable.
This all hinges on the Jets remaining the worst team in the NFL and landing one of the top two picks. Ohio State’s Justin Fields should be the second overall pick, and according to Kiper, would make sense for New York too. But if the Jets fall to the third pick or later? Darnold could be back.
“I think I’d rather have a 23-year-old Darnold right now than Trey Lance (North Dakota State) or Zach Wilson (BYU) in this class,” Kiper wrote. “I believe in his talent.”