Sam Darnold somehow fell to the New York Jets with the third pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, and the team’s management and fans had a right to be ecstatic. The USC signal-caller was the consensus top quarterback in the draft and now the Jets have a legitimate franchise caliber guy on their roster.
While Darnold is a fantastic talent, he still has a lot of developing to do. As I’ve broken down before, the kid makes reads and throws few players can, but he also has plenty of things to work on. Fostering that development should be the Jets’ No. 1 priority as a franchise.
What follows are five steps the New York must take to ensure their new franchise quarterback develops properly.
Sit him for most of 2018
The Jets re-signed Josh McCown this offseason, and grabbed Teddy Bridgewater as an upside insurance option. Now that they landed Darnold, neither of those guys has a long-term future with the franchise.
McCown is a great veteran for the rookie quarterback to sit behind and is coming off a career year. He’ll be 39 when the season rolls around, and will almost certainly start for the majority of the campaign. It would likely be best for Darnold to get some snaps this year, but he needs to sit.
Darnold is still just 20. He has a lot of growing and improving to do. His footwork and delivery looked vastly improved at his pro day, but he’ll need to show that kind of progress consistently. With the Jets unlikely to come anywhere close to competing this season, they should get Darnold a few drives per game starting in the middle of the year. Getting the rookie’s feet wet will pay off in the long run.
McCown should get the nod this season, while Bridgewater was long-term insurance if the Jets didn’t find their franchise quarterback in the draft. With those guys in place, Darnold has the luxury of sitting and learning. That will be a huge benefit to a guy with a lot of developing to do.