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Sam vs The Record Books: Week 8

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New York Jets v Chicago Bears Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Week 8 of our season long tracking of Sam Darnold’s progress brings a little further backtracking, as Darnold struggled a bit against the elements, the opponent, and the gaffes of his own teammates in the Jets’ loss against the Chicago Bears. Darnold moves back down the lists slightly as his rookie year is shaping up like many rookies before him; a bit of a rollercoaster ride.

A few things to keep in mind. All rankings herein are limited to rookie quarterbacks with at least 250 passing attempts in their rookie seasons. Prior to the 2018 season there have been 72 rookie quarterbacks with 250 or more passing attempts in the post merger era. Rate stats (like completion %) reflect actual current numbers for Darnold. Counting stats (like touchdowns or yards) reflect prorated numbers for Darnold assuming he continues to perform at the same level all season.

Let’s get to it. Below are a bunch of quarterback metrics, listing the all time rookie leaders for each and showing where Sam Darnold fits assuming he plays at the same level all season.

Yards

  1. Andrew Luck 4374
  2. Cam Newton 4051
  3. Jameis Winston 4042
  4. Carson Wentz 3782
  5. Peyton Manning 3739

...

10. Sam Darnold 3410

Touchdowns

  1. Peyton Manning 26
  2. Russell Wilson 26 (Tie 1)
  3. Andrew Luck 23
  4. Dak Prescott 23 (Tie 3)
  5. Sam Darnold 22
  6. Jameis Winston 22 (Tie 5)
  7. Jim Kelly 22 (Tie 5)

Interceptions

  1. Peyton Manning 28
  2. Jim Zorn 27
  3. Terry Bradshaw 24
  4. Jeff Komlo 23
  5. DeShone Kizer 22
  6. Steve DeBerg 22 (Tie 5)

...

8. Sam Darnold 20 (Tie 8)

Passer Rating

  1. Dak Prescott 104.9
  2. Robert Griffin III 102.4
  3. Russell Wilson 100
  4. Ben Roethlisberger 98.1
  5. Dan Marino 96

...

29. Sam Darnold 74.5

Yards/Attempt

  1. Ben Roethlisberger 8.88
  2. Robert Griffin III 8.14
  3. Dak Prescott 7.99
  4. Russell Wilson 7.93
  5. Matt Ryan 7.93

...

23. Sam Darnold 6.82

Completion Percentage

  1. Dak Prescott 67.8
  2. Ben Roethlisberger 66.4
  3. Robert Griffin III 65.7
  4. Teddy Bridgewater 64.4
  5. Russell Wilson 64.1

...

37. Sam Darnold 55.2

Touchdown Percentage

  1. Dan Marino 6.8
  2. Russell Wilson 6.6
  3. Jim Plunkett 5.8
  4. Ben Roethlisberger 5.8 (Tie 3)
  5. Steve Bartkowski 5.1
  6. Robert Griffin III 5.1 (Tie 5)
  7. Marcus Mariota 5.1 (Tie 5)
  8. Jake Plummer 5.1 (Tie 5)

...

16. Sam Darnold 4.4 (Tie 16)

Interception Percentage

  1. Dak Prescott 0.9
  2. Robert Griffin III 1.3
  3. Nick Foles 1.9
  4. Charlie Batch 2.0
  5. Derek Carr 2.0 (Tie 4)

...

46. Sam Darnold 4.0

As the season wears on the sample gets larger and the results more stable. The picture is becoming a bit more clear each week. The numbers are starting to look average-ish compared to rookies throughout NFL post merger history in many categories for Darnold.

To provide additional context, we’re going to start providing how Sam stacks up against the 39 qualifying rookie quarterbacks of the past 15 years. The game and its rules have changed so much that comparisons of quarterbacks from 50 years ago to quarterbacks of today are of limited value. Quarterbacks of the last 15 years make for a much closer to an apples to apples comparison. Here is how Sam stacks up against rookie quarterbacks of the last 15 years:

Yards

  1. Andrew Luck 4374
  2. Cam Newton 4051
  3. Jameis Winston 4042
  4. Carson Wentz 3782
  5. Dak Prescott 3667

...

8. Sam Darnold 3410

Touchdowns

  1. Russell Wilson 26
  2. Andrew Luck 23
  3. Dak Prescott 23 (Tie 3)
  4. Sam Darnold 22
  5. Jameis Winston 22 (Tie 4)

Interceptions

  1. DeShone Kizer 22
  2. Geno Smith 21
  3. Sam Darnold 20
  4. Matthew Stafford 20 (Tie 3)
  5. Mark Sanchez 20 (Tie 3)

Passer Rating

  1. Dak Prescott 104.9
  2. Robert Griffin III 102.4
  3. Russell Wilson 100
  4. Ben Roethlisberger 98.1
  5. Marcus Mariota 91.5

...

22. Sam Darnold 74.5

Yards/Attempt

  1. Ben Roethlisberger 8.88
  2. Robert Griffin III 8.14
  3. Dak Prescott 7.99
  4. Russell Wilson 7.93
  5. Matt Ryan 7.93

...

13. Sam Darnold 6.82

Completion Percentage

  1. Dak Prescott 67.8
  2. Ben Roethlisberger 66.4
  3. Robert Griffin III 65.7
  4. Teddy Bridgewater 64.4
  5. Russell Wilson 64.1

...

27. Sam Darnold 55.2

Touchdown Percentage

  1. Russell Wilson 6.6
  2. Ben Roethlisberger 5.8
  3. Robert Griffin III 5.1 (Tie 3)
  4. Marcus Mariota 5.1 (Tie 3)
  5. Dak Prescott 5.0

...

8. Sam Darnold 4.4 (Tie)

Interception Percentage

  1. Dak Prescott 0.9
  2. Robert Griffin III 1.3
  3. Nick Foles 1.9
  4. Derek Carr 2.0
  5. Mitchell Trubisky 2.1

...

31. Sam Darnold 4.0

In comparison to his contemporary peers Darnold again appears average-ish in his rookie statistics. He is very poor in interceptions, below average in completion %, about average in passer rating, and above average in yards, touchdowns, and yards per attempt. A real mixed bag for Darnold compared to his contemporary peers

One thing that may be a bit concerning is that Darnold ranks below league average in every major category this season. Although rookies often struggle, most of the rookies that go on to have excellent NFL careers manage to be at or above league average in at least one major statistical category in their rookie years. It’s not a foolproof standard, there have been exceptions, but if Darnold does not manage to at least make it to league average in at least one major statistical category by year end it is not a particularly good omen for his career. Still plenty of time for things to change. We’ll track these numbers throughout the year and see how this unfolds.