Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold is among the five worst starters at his position in the NFL, says Pro Football Focus. The website released its PFF Quarterback Rankings: All 32 starters ahead of the 2021 NFL season, written by former NFL quarterback Bruce Gradkowski.
The top three quarterbacks were Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes, Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady and Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers.
Denver’s Drew Lock took the worst possible spot at No. 32, with Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts (31st) and New York Jets rookie Zach Wilson (30th) following after. Miami’s Tua Tagovailoa came in at 29th. Darnold earned the 28th spot.
Gradkowski ranked a pair of rookie quarterbacks ahead of Darnold in Chicago’s Justin Fields (25th) and Jacksonville’s Trever Lawrence (20th).
The former quarterback even ranked Cam Newton ahead of Darnold, who threw for eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions last season. New Orleans’ duo of Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill (24th) also placed ahead of Darnold.
Darnold’s poor ranking seems to be related to his passing grade in 2020, as measured by PFF.
Here’s what Gradkowski had to say about the Panthers presumptive starter:
The No. 3 overall pick in 2018 will try to resurrect his career with Carolina. Darnold had the worst passing grade last year out of 36 qualifying quarterbacks, but he also didn’t get much help from the leagues second-lowest-graded receiving unit.
How much changes in Carolina? He will be surrounded by a more stable organization and leadership, as well as offensive weapons that will help take the pressure off. He’s athletic, tough and able to make plays out of structure, but that is unpredictable. Let’s not forget Darnold has the fourth-highest uncatchable pass rate (21.9%) since 2019, so his accuracy will have to improve to utilize his weapons on offense.
Elsewhere in the NFC South
2. Tom Brady (Tampa Bay Buccaneers)
9. Matt Ryan (Atlanta Falcons)
24. Jameis Winston / Taysom Hill (New Orleans Saints)
The Panthers acquired Darnold from the New York Jets this offseason in exchange for 2022 second and fourth round picks and a 2021 sixth round draft pick (the No. 226 overall pick).
The Jets traded the sixthth rounder to Kansas City, who selected Tennessee guard Trey Smith.
Carolina also shipped last season’s starting quarterback, Teddy Bridgewater, to the Denver Broncos. In return, the Panthers received a sixth rounder, No. 191 overall. But the Panthers traded that pick, along with the No. 73 pick, to Philadelphia. In exchange, Carolina received the No. 70 pick, which it used to select BYU offensive tackle Brady Christensen.