We expected this to be a pretty unprecedented offseason of QB turnover, and the Jets and Panthers became the latest teams to shake up the position with the Panthers acquisition of former No. 3 overall pick Sam Darnold. The Jets acquired a 2021 sixth-round pick along with a second and fourth-round pick in 2022, while the Panthers get a chance to see if the still-somehow-only-23-year-old quarterback can benefit from a change of scenery.
And his chances of figuring it out are a lot better now than they were before the trade. Darnold has been in arguably the worst situation for a young QB in the NFL, not just surrounded by lackluster talent but also shackled to a head coach in Adam Gase over the past two seasons who consistently failed to get the most out of the talent he did have. He's certainly had flashes, but has been too inconsistent for the Jets to pass up on a QB with the No. 2 overall pick. The Panthers have Teddy Bridgewater in house, a solid placeholder quarterback, but probably not one who can get the most out of an offense with the kind of playmakers the Panthers have. This deal makes a lot of sense from both sides, and there are definitely Fantasy ramifications going both ways.
You can read about that in today's newsletter, plus I've got a collection of the latest news and rumors from around the NFL below that. In the next few weeks leading up to the NFL Draft at the end of this month, I'll be looking at how some of the new coaching staffs around the NFL could change the outlook for various players, and we'll also be previewing every Fantasy relevant prospect, starting with the quarterbacks in the coming days. As always, if you've got any questions you want answered, send them my way at Chris.Towers@CBSInteractive.com to get included in an upcoming edition of the newsletter.
Now, here's what that means for both sides, starting with the Panthers and their new QB.
In addition to trading for him, the Panthers are reportedly picking up Darnold's fifth-year option, which will put him on the books for $18.858 million in 2022. So, it seems safe to assume they're planning on moving forward with him as the starter for 2021 at least. They'll likely look to move Teddy Bridgewater as a result, though having him around as a high-level backup wouldn't be the worst thing in the word. But either way, the Panthers are approaching this as if Darnold is the QB for at least the near future.
And it's a gamble, for sure. Darnold wasn't great in his first two seasons and he regressed pretty much across the board in 2020, with nine touchdowns to 11 interceptions to go along with a career-worst 6.1 yards per attempt. Among 28 quarterbacks with at least 1,200 pass attempts over the first three seasons of their career since 2000, Darnold's 6.64 yards per attempt is the seventh-lowest; his touchdown rate of 3.7% is the fourth-lowest, too, while his interception rate of 3.2% is the seventh-highest. Any way you slice it, Darnold's had a rough start to his career since being the third overall pick in the 2018 draft.
But you can see why the Panthers would be willing to make this gamble. Bridgewater was solid enough in 2020, completing 69.1% of his passes for 7.6 yards per attempt, but he had just a 3.0% touchdown rate on his 492 attempts. And that's been a consistent theme through Bridgewater's career -- he has a very solid 7.3 yards per attempt overall and completes a high percentage of his passes, but has a lackluster 3.4% touchdown rate, lower than Darnold's career mark.
Bridgewater brings a high floor, but with a talented group of pass catchers, this is an offense that should be aiming for higher. Darnold has good arm strength and decent athleticism, and at least theoretically give the Panthers more potential as an offense. Of course, he needs to get a lot better than he was in New York, because he was outplayed by Joe Flacco last season, which is not what you want to see. However, the talent around Darnold is better than it ever has been, and it does seem safe to assume he'll play at a higher level than ever before as a result.
This is a good landing spot for Darnold, but his arrival in Carolina certainly makes D.J. Moore and Robby Anderson a bit riskier for Fantasy, and I've moved Moore down from WR12 to WR17; Anderson only fell from WR32 to WR33. Darnold's decision making and accuracy will need to take a big step forward, but because he's so young, it's entirely possible he takes that step. I won't be drafting him for Fantasy, but I'll be watching him early on to see if the new environs help him unlock something.
The Panthers have the makings of one of the best offenses in the league, with a superstar at RB in Christian McCaffrey, a legitimate No. 1 WR in Moore, and an excellent complementary piece in Anderson -- plus new tight end Dan Arnold, who could be a sneaky-good pickup for them. The question is all about the QB spot, and they're taking a risk that Darnold will benefit from a change of scenery. This offense could be a force to be reckoned if Darnold does make the necessary improvements, and it instantly becomes one of the more important spots to keep an eye on early on. Investing in this offense could prove incredibly valuable for your Fantasy team.
Or, Darnold could flop and take the rest of them down with him.
Jets acquire a 2021 sixth-round pick and a second and fourth-round pick in 2022
The impact of this trade for the Jets is obviously what it means for them in the upcoming NFL draft. The assumption all along has been that the Jets would grab a quarterback with their No. 2 pick, and this all but confirms it. At this point, it looks like Zach Wilson has risen to be the consensus No. 2 choice behind Trevor Lawrence, and it would be surprising to see the Jets go anywhere else.
You can get to know Wilson by checking out CBS Fantasy editor Dan Schneier's profile on the BYU QB prospect here, but here are some of the key highlights:
- "Wilson is nowhere close to a complete prospect or quarterback, and it's impossible to know what kind of impact playing behind an elite offensive line will have as he attempts to translate to the next level, but it's impossible to go more than a couple of series without seeing him complete NFL-level difficulty throws to all three levels of the field. Wilson also consistently demonstrates the ability to create plays with both his legs and arm outside of structure when the pocket breaks down, which is more important in the NFL now than maybe ever before."
- Best Fantasy fits: 49ers and Jets -- "A more likely suitor given that New York owns the No. 2 overall pick, the Jets are also a strong fit based on how we can project their system to look under first-year offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur. After coming over from San Francisco with Robert Saleh, LaFleur is expected to bring with him a similar system to Shanahan's with the 49ers. The Jets have taken strides to rebuild their offensive line, Denzel Mims could take a Year 2 leap with improved QB play, and they have the cap space plus draft capital to upgrade multiple skill positions this offseason."
- Dynasty Outlook: "In one-QB dynasty formats, Wilson comes in at No. 11 overall for me, just behind Lawrence. In Superflex and two-QB formats, he's top five on my big board. If you haven't already picked up on it, I'm pushing most or all of my poker chips to the middle of the table on Wilson."
- Strengths: "Rare arm talent … pinpoint ball placement to all three levels of the field … creative at avoiding pressure in the pocket … underrated athleticism and rushing ability (642 career rush yards, 15 TD)."
- Concerns: "Small sample size. Wilson broke out during the 2020 season at BYU but didn't make much of an imprint during his previous two seasons … has dealt with shoulder and hand injuries … finished with a 96.5 PFF grade from a clean pocket under no pressure and a 74.1 PFF grade when pressured."
- NFL comparison: "There's no former quarterback I see more of in Wilson than Tony Romo. But I also see bits and pieces of Baker Mayfield and Brett Favre. Wilson's lightning-quick and compact release is reminiscent of Aaron Rodgers."
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News, notes and rumors
- The Seahawks signed Tyler Lockett to a four-year, $69.2 million extension -- The Fantasy community seems to have turned on Lockett a bit, what with D.K. Metcalf competing for targets with him. However, this is an extremely concentrated passing game, and there's no reason to think that won't be the case in 2021 as well, so Metcalf and Lockett should continue to operate as co-Nos. 1. As long as Russell Wilson is still under center, there should be plenty of room for both to be must-start Fantasy options, but with Metcalf going No. 25th overall in our recent PPR mock draft while Lockett fell to 52nd, the veteran may be the better value at this point.
- Washington will have "a competition" at QB -- Ryan Fitzpatrick is, of course, the top option at the position, and Ron Rivera confirmed as much in his comments last week. However, he's also 38 and signed for just one year, so the Football Team would be foolish not to add a potential heir apparent in the draft. Fitzpatrick is no stranger to life as a placeholder, but we'd like to see him hold on to the job for the full year, because he's a particularly exciting fit with an up-and-coming Washington offense.
- Andy Dalton will start for the Bears -- Not that this was unexpected. Dalton pretty much said the same thing when he signed, and Nick Foles is the only other guy on the roster. Dalton will hopefully help stabilize the position for the Bears, and maybe that will have a positive impact on Allen Robinson, but we know he's an average-at-best QB, so he won't fundamentally alter how the offense worse.
- The Falcons have had talks about moving out of the No. 4 spot -- This is a QB-heavy top of the draft, and it's not out of the question we could see four straight to start the draft. Given that the Falcons are still committed to Ryan financially, it would make sense for them to try to snag a few extra assets to supplement their core. This team is going to have to make a decision on the future eventually, but that's probably more of a 2022 question.
- The 49ers are reportedly asking for a first-round pick for Jimmy Garoppolo -- Garoppolo has a $26.4 million cap hit for 2020, and it would be surprising to see someone really offer a first-rounder for him. Garoppolo is a starting-caliber QB, for sure, but the fact that the 49ers are seemingly ready to move on from him despite presumably viewing themselves as contenders for 2021 is a sign of how he's viewed at this point. He would be an upgrade for a team like the Broncos or Bears, but he wouldn't be an exciting Fantasy option anywhere.
- Antonio Brown isn't close to signing with the Buccaneers -- According to reports last week, the Bucs have offered Brown similar money to what he signed for in 2020, but he's obviously looking for more than that after a successful run that saw him stay out of trouble and put up a 966-yard, eight-touchdown pace in eight games after not playing since 2018. Brown signing with the Bucs would be a disaster for what is already a too-crowded offense, but it's not clear if any other teams are interested at this point.
- O.J. Howard (Achilles) should be able to participate in the offseason program -- Howard suffered his injury in Week 5 of the 2020 season, finishing with 11 catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns in four games, out producing Rob Gronkowski when both were active. Achilles injuries are notoriously tough to come back from at full strength, so Howard probably won't be much of a factor early on. However, if he's back to full strength by the start of the season, that's just one more person to worry about in this offense.