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When the Panthers dealt for Sam Darnold, sending three picks back to the Jets (none higher than a future second rounder), they essentially bet that the former third-overall pick — who is still just 23-years-old — will bring them a more dynamic offensive threat than Teddy Bridgewater did in Year 1 under head coach Matt Rhule. They may well be right, though the sportsbooks have already presented some immediate doubt.
Shortly after the Panthers acquired Darnold, the team's over/under win total was listed at 7.5 ... exactly what it had been before they traded for Darnold. The point? Even if Darnold develops as an upgrade on Bridgewater (no sure thing), he's not enough to help Carolina earn an eighth win.
There are plenty of statistical reasons for it, not the least of which can be mapped out right here:
|QB/TEAM||OFFENSIVE PASSER RATING||REAL QBR||OFFENSIVE HOG INDEX|
If you were looking for consistency, that's what those 2020 stats give you. Bridgewater performed right about the level that the offensive line makes it seem possible. Darnold did exactly the same. Both put up disappointing numbers, though coming in first seasons under new offensive coordinators, it'd be hard to have expected otherwise.
If anything, Carolina's move for Darnold is one borne of optimism for youth and potential; essentially, Rhule has decided he knows what he has in Bridgewater and it isn't good enough. Therefore, it's worth finding out if he can tap something better in Darnold, and worth the price of a second round pick for the cost ... even if the sportsbooks and sharps appear convinced that Darnold will bring literally zero top down improvement. With the best chances of adding a win against the likes of the Patriots or playoff teams New Orleans, Washington, Buffalo, Miami or Arizona, it's not hard to see why the professional bettors have decided their interests lie against Carolina's improvement, not for it.