Sam Darnold should be on his way to stardom if he can hit these statistical benchmarks in 2020.
Yards per attempt
No one metric is even remotely close to perfect for evaluating quarterback play, but plain-old Y/A (yards per attempt) is one of the more solid passing metrics out there.
Darnold averaged 6.9 Y/A in each of his first two seasons, placing him 26th of 33 in 2018 and 23rd of 32 in 2019.
I would like to see Darnold push into the top 10-15 range of Y/A. In 2019, this range spanned from 10th-ranked Drew Brees (7.9) to 15th-ranked Matt Ryan (7.3). The NFL average was 7.2.
For Darnold to make that leap in Y/A, he will need to improve his completion rate. Darnold ranked 31st with a 57.7% completion rate in 2018 and 24th with a 61.9% rate in 2019. The 2019 league average was 63.5%.
Before getting deeper into the subject, it has to be understood that completion rate in itself is an awful stat because of its lack of context. It is far from an indicator of accuracy or performance quality due to the major differences in the types of throws each quarterback attempts.
Some quarterbacks attempt a lot of low-percentage/high-upside deep throws and some love the high-percentage/low-upside checkdowns. Some deal with immense pressure and some do not. These factors have an immense effect on completion rate even though they do not have much to do with how well the quarterback is actually playing.
So, Darnold ranking so lowly in completion rate does not necessarily indicate his accuracy is truly that bad. However, the number does need to improve for his overall production to reach a viable level. Some of the things that have to change involve Darnold’s accuracy in specific ranges and some involve factors that have been completely out of his control.
Let’s start with the latter. Horrendous offensive line play has laid a huge dent in Darnold’s completion rate.
Here are 30 qualified quarterbacks in 2019 ranked by the percentage of dropbacks in which they were sacked, hit while throwing, had their pass batted at the line of scrimmage, or threw the ball away. One look at this chart explains a lot about Darnold’s lackluster box score stats.