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Sam vs The Record Books: Week 15

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Houston Texans v New York Jets Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

Sam Darnold’s best game of the year last Sunday means things are looking up in our season long tracking of Darnold’s progress.

A few things to keep in mind. All rankings herein (other than the comparisons among the five 2018 first round rookie quarterbacks) 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

...

28. Sam Darnold 2786

Touchdowns

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

...

18. Sam Darnold 17 (Tie 18)

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)

...

9. Sam Darnold 18 (Tie 9)

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

...

35. Sam Darnold 72.8

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

...

28. Sam Darnold 6.72

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

...

32. Sam Darnold 56.7 (Tie 32)

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)

...

23. Sam Darnold 4.0 (Tie 23)

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)

...

51. Sam Darnold 4.3

To provide additional context, we’ll see how Sam stacks up against the 42 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 comparison much closer to apples to apples so to speak. 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

...

23. Sam Darnold 2786

Touchdowns

  1. Russell Wilson 26
  2. Andrew Luck 23
  3. Dak Prescott 23 (Tie 2)
  4. Jameis Winston 22
  5. Cam Newton 21

...

14. Sam Darnold 17 (Tie 14)

Interceptions

  1. Deshone Kizer 22
  2. Geno Smith 21
  3. Matthew Stafford 20 (Tie 3)
  4. Mark Sanchez 20 (Tie 3)
  5. Andrew Luck 18 (Tie 5)
  6. Carson Palmer 18 (Tie 5)
  7. Josh Freeman 18 (Tie 5)
  8. Sam Darnold 18 (Tie 5)

...

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

...

25. Sam Darnold 72.8

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

...

17. Sam Darnold 6.72

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

...

26. Sam Darnold 56.7

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

...

12. Sam Darnold 4.0

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

...

35. Sam Darnold 4.3

In comparison to his contemporary peers Darnold appears roughly average. He ranks best in touchdowns and touchdown percentage and worst in interceptions and interception percentage compared to his contemporary peers.

Next up: how Darnold stacks up against his fellow rookie first round quarterbacks. The counting numbers here are raw numbers, not pro-rated.

Yards

  1. Baker Mayfield 3065
  2. Sam Darnold 2357
  3. Josh Rosen 2042
  4. Josh Allen 1633
  5. Lamar Jackson 1022

Touchdowns

  1. Baker Mayfield 21
  2. Sam Darnold 14
  3. Josh Rosen 10
  4. Josh Allen 6
  5. Lamar Jackson 6

Interceptions

  1. Sam Darnold 15
  2. Josh Rosen 14
  3. Baker Mayfield 11
  4. Josh Allen 9
  5. Lamar Jackson 3

Passer Rating

  1. Baker Mayfield 92.6
  2. Lamar Jackson 84.9
  3. Sam Darnold 72.8
  4. Josh Rosen 66.3
  5. Josh Allen 65.5

Yards/Attempt

  1. Baker Mayfield 7.53
  2. Lamar Jackson 7.00
  3. Sam Darnold 6.72
  4. Josh Allen 6.45
  5. Josh Rosen 6.08

Completion Percentage

  1. Baker Mayfield 63.9
  2. Lamar Jackson 58.2
  3. Sam Darnold 56.7
  4. Josh Rosen 55.7
  5. Josh Allen 52.2

Touchdown Percentage

  1. Baker Mayfield 5.2
  2. Lamar Jackson 4.1
  3. Sam Darnold 4.0
  4. Josh Rosen 3.0
  5. Josh Allen 2.4

Interception Percentage

  1. Lamar Jackson 2.1
  2. Baker Mayfield 2.7
  3. Josh Allen 3.6
  4. Josh Rosen 4.2
  5. Sam Darnold 4.3

The numbers here show Baker Mayfield to be by far the best of the rookie first round quarterbacks thus far, with Sam Darnold placed largely in the middle of the pack. One glaring issue with Darnold thus far is protecting the ball, as in interceptions Darnold lags in last place among his peers.

Finally let’s take a look at the numbers from the perspective of where Darnold ranks with respect to league averages compared to the post-merger rookie quarterbacks. We’re only going to be looking at rates here, not counting stats. Including this year’s qualifying rookies there have been 76 post-merger rookie quarterbacks with at least 250 passing attempts in their rookie year. The number listed next to the names corresponds to the percentage of league average for that player in his rookie year. So, for example, if a QB had a 60 passer rating in a year the league average was 80, his passer rating number here would be 60/80, or 75%. In this way we can compare quarterbacks across the eras on a level playing field, noting how they performed compared to the league in their time.

Passer Rating

  1. Dan Marino 125
  2. Dak Prescott 123
  3. Ben Roethlisberger 122
  4. Robert Griffin III 121
  5. Russell Wilson 118

...

53. Sam Darnold 78

Yards/Attempt

  1. Ben Roethlisberger 136
  2. Robert Griffin III 121
  3. Dak Prescott 119
  4. Matt Ryan 119
  5. Dennis Shaw 118

...

36. Sam Darnold 90

Completion Percentage

  1. Ben Roethlisberger 123
  2. Dak Prescott 120
  3. Robert Griffin III 117
  4. Jim Kelly 116
  5. Dieter Brock 115

...

58. Sam Darnold 76

Touchdown Percentage

  1. Dan Marino 127
  2. Russell Wilson 125
  3. Ben Roethlisberger 120
  4. Jim Plunkett 115
  5. Jake Plummer 111

...

31. Sam Darnold 95

Interception Percentage

  1. Dan Marino 128
  2. Dak Prescott 127
  3. Robert Griffin III 124
  4. Neil O’Donnell 117
  5. Charlie Batch 117

...

70. Sam Darnold 70

Here we see that Sam Darnold has been a mostly below average rookie quarterback when measured by percentage of league averages. He is below current NFL average in every major category, and compared to rookies across the years Sam is below average in passer rating and completion percentage, near the absolute bottom in interception percentage, about average in yards per attempt, and above average in touchdown percentage. All in all it has been a mixed bag for Sam’s rookie year compared to rookies since the merger.

With the year winding down Darnold has just two weeks remaining to tweak his numbers. His rising performances the last two weeks have begun to push him up the ranks a bit and spark some optimism in the Jets fan base. It would be nice to see him finish the year strong.