As we quickly approach the 2019 NFL regular season, it seems as if the 2018 NFL Draft was forever ago. A class highlighted by its quarterbacks, at least four teams walked away with “their guy.” Yet the greatest feat might just be the fact that we get to see two of them face off twice every season.
Sam Darnold of the New York Jets and Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills went third and seventh overall, respectively. One is a traditional quarterback who does a bit of everything, and the other a big, athletic gunslinger. Maybe more than all the 2018 quarterbacks, these two will be paired at the hip for their entire careers… but who will have the better career?
The answer is Sam Darnold.
Why Sam Darnold Will Be More Successful in the NFL Than Josh Allen
What We Know So Far
Everyone knows that the star-rating system employed for college recruiting is never perfect. Darnold was a four-star recruit from San Clemente High School back in 2014. Whereas Josh Allen was not even ranked coming from Reedley Junior College. Both experienced very different paths in their time in school. Allen was with Wyoming, who plays in the Mountain West conference, and Darnold being at USC who plays in the Pac-12. From talent, competition, to the stage they play on, Darnold certainly had the edge.
After redshirting his freshman season, he took over the starting job from former five-star recruit Max Browne by Week Four. He never looked back as the team went on a nine-game win streak following a loss in his starting debut. Wins over Colorado, Washington, and Penn State drove Darnold’s rise to become the presumable first overall selection following his sophomore season. The following year he led USC to an 11-3 record (20-4 overall as starter), although his turnovers began to become more apparent. Even so, his hype train continued despite not running away with the likelihood of becoming the top selection.
Meanwhile, at Wyoming, Josh Allen played his game. Elevating the play around him slightly, he led the Cowboys to an 8-6 record his first season. Then in 2017, he battled some injuries as Wyoming went 8-3 with him as the starter. His turnover rate went down, but nonetheless, he struggled against top competition such as Iowa, Oregon, and Boise State. He garnered interest in the pro-style offense they ran while lighting up the easier competition as he began to rise following the conclusion of the 2017 season.
The Draft Process
Then came the NFL Combine, pro days, and the general pre-draft process altogether. Darnold’s stock remained steady as he flashed all the tools to become a star in the league. Allen put on an absolute show with his cannon of an arm and prototype build.
By the time the draft came around, Darnold was viewed as a “the guy” for any franchise who can become one of the top quarterbacks in the league sooner than later. Allen was viewed as a bit of a project, but potentially with the highest ceiling of all 2018 quarterbacks. When it was all said and done, Baker Mayfield went before both of them.
It is not easy to make it in the Big Apple. Numerous times players have been consumed by the harsh fanbases and critical media. That being said, there is a reason why Jets fans wait literally hours in the blazing sun for the chance to a picture with their franchise’s savior.
Darnold jumped right in as the team’s starter. Beating out 2017 starter Josh McCown as well as an experienced Teddy Bridgewater to earn his starting job, he met plenty of skeptics. Through the first pass of his career, they were not wrong. Throwing a pick-six does not help Darnold’s case. What does, however, is coming back and blowing out the opponent.
This was the story of the first half of Darnold’s season, as a foot injury caused him to miss three games. From weeks 1-9, Darnold was a typical rookie making mistakes and learning from them. He has never been someone to be afraid of taking risks, which led to 14 interceptions to match his 11 touchdown passes. Injuries to Quincy Enunwa, along with poor offensive line play by Spencer Long, did not help anyone.
Then it all changed. Returning from his foot injury, Darnold played as good as his opposing quarterbacks and led young, inexperienced, and battered lineups in tightly contested games. Darnold’s completion percentage rose to the league average as well as only one interception to his six touchdown passes. Darnold read defenses much better, was smarter with the ball, as the game began to slow down for him, as it does any good quarterback. He simply just made the players around him better.
That being said, it is no knock on Allen. He too dealt with injury troubles, although while he did throw the ball more, he did not grow as a passer. Interceptions still lingered, as well as his completion percentage hovered around 50 percent. He certainly has the mobility to succeed thanks to his athletic ability, as well as a strong defense on the other end
Anybody can start in the NFL. Well, maybe not anybody, although there is a reason why these two teams were sold on Darnold and Allen. That being they both saw something special in their guy.
Up until the final 24 hours of the draft, many thought Darnold was easily the first overall pick. He can make all the throws accurately, has great size for the NFL, and as mentioned has great poise under pressure. It was known coming out of USC that Darnold will need to work/learn through his mistakes such as forcing his passes.
On the other hand, Allen is a huge player. Literally. His big frame included entering the league with what would immediately be one of the biggest arms. While the big athletic guy is always intriguing, Allen came with a handful of concerns. His mobile playing style has come at a cost, as injuries have led to missing five games. His strong arm comes with poor accuracy which combined with his spotty decision making is a disaster in the waiting.
Team Around Them
New York Jets
This is hard to predict given if they were to reach their potential, or who their weapons will be, say ten years from now. For now, during this past off-season, both teams reloaded around their promising stars. The Jets did whatever it took to add talent around Darnold. It started with superstar Le’Veon Bell who is a threat whether running or receiving the ball. Ty Montgomery adds similar value as he can run as well as line up in the slot. Jamison Crowder is an explosive speedster out of the slot who adds tons of experience despite being only 26. The offensive line is the best it’s been in years, adding two-time Pro Bowl guard Kelechi Osemele, five-time Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil, as well as recently acquiring former Ravens starting guar Alex Lewis as a depth piece.
All these weapons join a group of young studs already in place in the Big Apple. Bell and Montgomery join a healthy Bilal Powell, creating a deep and dangerous running back corps. Robby Anderson dominated down the stretch after a slow start and is one of the biggest downfield threats in the league. Quincy Enunwa when healthy is impossible to bring down, and second-year tight end Chris Herndon gives the Jets a big threat over the middle of the field they have not had in years. Most importantly, the offense is now run by head coach Adam Gase, who is a known quarterback guru. Who knows what he can do with Darnold and a core as talented as this.
With Josh Allen’s mobility, head coach Sean McDermott has built a unique group of weapons around him. This is an offense that will live and die with the run game, led by LeSean McCoy. He is not the player he once was but is still an average back. Maybe not being a workhorse back may bring out the old “Shady.” Frank Gore is the definition of a power back who fits perfectly in their offense. T.J. Yeldon is a solid veteran back. And rookie Devin Singletary’s burst and explosive play is something none of the other backs offer. Additions such as centers Mitch Morse, Russell Bodine, Spencer Long, guards Jon Feliciano, Quinton Spain, as well as tackles Ty Nsekhe and Cody Ford certainly improve this line.
As for the receivers, there is certainly room for improvement. The group complements Allen’s mobility, yet yearns for a number one target. Zay Jones is a solid number two receiver. John Brown joins Robert Foster as a dynamic duo who can open the field in the long ball. Cole Beasley is not going to change a game but gives Allen a dump-off option. And if Tyler Kroft can stay healthy, he gives a big red zone threat.
At the end of the day, the team and talent around them on offense will all come down to health. For Darnold, Enunwa and Crowder both have dealt with injuries, not to mention Herndon has been suspended the first four games of the season stemming from a DUI incident. Also, starting right guard Brian Winters already has been dealing with a shoulder injury. As for Allen, McCoy might not even make the roster as he could be a cap casualty. Injuries have already come down along the Bills line, such as Morse, Long, and Bodine all hurt already. Veteran tackle LaAdrian Waddle has already landed on injured reserve. And tight ends Dawson Knox and Jason Croom have lingering hamstring injuries too.
The Last Word on Why Sam Darnold Will Be More Successful in the NFL Than Josh Allen
When it is all said and done, both of these guys should have very productive and successful careers assuming injuries do not come into play. With skill, potential, and weapons around them taken into consideration, Darnold has the edge over Allen. This is certainly not saying Allen is not going to be good, as he does have the talent to succeed in Buffalo’s offense.
The Jets have built this team top to bottom around Darnold. Darnold is now being surrounded by high-end talent and an improving offensive line. Not to mention he should take a huge step in year two. Playing in the Big Apple will attract free agents more than Buffalo, and the bigger market gives him a bigger following too. In the end, based on talent, weapons, and resources, it is easy to understand why Sam Darnold will have a more fruitful career than Josh Allen.