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Football Outsiders projects Sam Darnold’s rookie season

NFL: New York Jets at Washington Redskins Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

The Football Outsiders Almanac 2018 has been released. The good folks at Football Outsiders provide a ton of statistically-based analysis on the NFL through the year. Each summer they publish a book thoroughly previewing the NFL and college football, complete with a detailed chapter on each team and fantasy projections. It is a fantastic read.

Each year since this site began, the author on the Jets chapter has stopped by to answer five questions. We will have one question answered each day this week. Traditionally, answers that reflect positively on the Jets are met with comments such as, “Interesting analysis,” and, “That’s why Football Outsiders is such an intelligent website.” Answers that reflect negatively on the Jets tend to get comments like, “Who cares what this guy thinks,” “Like anybody knows for sure what’s going to happen,” and “That’s why Football Outsiders is such a stupid website.”

Rivers McCown wrote the chapter on the Jets this year. You might be familiar with his work two years ago using Approximate Value (AV) while discussing the merits of the trade for Ryan Clady.

As you probably could guess, my first question is about Sam Darnold. Below is Rivers’ answer.

What are reasonable expectations for Sam Darnold’s rookie season?

Keep in mind a few things before I share the projection that the book has. One is that DVOA is a sum-of-passing game stat and doesn’t reflect how we feel about Darnold as a player. Another is that DVOA loathes turnovers and Darnold was picked 13 times and fumbled 12 times at USC last year. Finally, while our QBASE system like Darnold more than some of the other first-round picks, it did not think of Darnold as a game-changer.

The projection in the book is: 308-510, 60.3% completion percentage, 3768 yards, and a 19/19 TD/INT ratio with 12 fumbles, leading to a DVOA of -17.4%. It projects Darnold to flash the big-play traits that showed up at USC, and it projects Darnold to have some adjustments to make on the big stage. If this sounds bad to you, keep in mind that Andrew Luck had a 23/19 TD/INT ratio in his rookie season, and fumbled 10 times.

On a more subjective level, I personally was less enamored wth Darnold than Josh Rosen, but it’s hard to say that Darnold isn’t a good franchise quarterback prospect. I’d just expect a lot of turnovers in his first two seasons.

You can click here to buy the Football Outsiders Almanac 2018.