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Sam Darnold
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
Fantasy Fallout

The Impact of Sam Darnold's Absence

by Ian Hartitz
Updated On: September 12, 2019, 5:50 pm ET

Thursday was a pretty bad day for football fans with any level of emotional investment in the New York Jets.

  • Starting QB Sam Darnold (mono) has been ruled out for the Jets' Monday night matchup against the Browns and could reportedly miss multiple weeks.
  • Three-down stud RB Le'Veon Bell (sore shoulder) is getting an MRI.
  • 31-year-old WR Demaryius Thomas, who the Jets traded a sixth-round pick for, won't practice until at least Saturday due to a lingering hamstring injury.
  • Difference-making LB C.J. Mosley (groin) and No. 3 overall pick DT Quinnen Williams (ankle) are both looking very questionable ahead of Monday night.

Darnold's absence is obviously the most-impactful news of the group. The Browns were -3 favorites as of Thursday morning, but have since ballooned up to -6 at some books.


Darnold struggled mightily in Week 1, although he seemed to be well on his way to a year-two breakout after finishing last season on an incredibly high note.

  • QB Rating: 99.1; 10th among 33 QBs with at least 50 pass attempts in Weeks 14-17
  • Yards per attempt: 7.45; T-10th
  • Adjusted yards per attempt: 8.05; eighth
  • Touchdown rate: 4.8%; 10th
  • Completion rate: 64%; 17th
  • Fantasy points: 65; 13th
  • Pro Football Focus Grade: First

It's unlikely that Darnold was a starter on many fantasy rosters outside of deeper two-QB leagues. Still, his absence could completely revamp the Jets' target share and overall upside of the passing game. Darnold hasn't been the most-consistent QB to date, but his combination of limitless arm strength and plus athleticism has enabled him to make something out of nothing when the play breaks down.

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Backup QB Trevor Siemian will work as the starter Monday night against the Browns. He's been the definition of a #bad QB since entering the league in 2015.

  • Completion rate: 59.3%; 40th among 41 QBs with at least 16 starts since 2015
  • Touchdown rate: 3.6%; 35th
  • Interception rate: 2.9%; 38th
  • QB Rating: 79.9; 39th
  • Yards per attempt: 6.81; 35th
  • Adjusted yards per attempt: 6.23; 37th
  • Yards per game: 219 (30th)

Siemian should not be considered as a fantasy football option. Not even if there's a fire.

However, Siemian did prove to be decent enough in his time with the Broncos to support some fantasy-relevant teammates. Specifically, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders worked as the PPR WR23 and WR35, respectively, in PPR per game from 2016-2017 with Siemian starting 24 of a potential 32 games.

Siemian's middling average target depth indicates Jamison Crowder (14-99-0 on 17 targets in Week 1) could continue to see a large role in the offense, while Robby Anderson could become an even more volatile boom-or-bust option than we've grown accustomed to seeing. Overall, Siemian ranked 34th and 25th in percentage of passes to travel at least 20 yards in the air in 2016 and 2017, respectively (PFF).

Featuring the offense's slot WR has certainly been a trend in coach Adam Gase's offenses over the years, no matter who has been under center.

Crowder and Bell (if healthy) should work as the top-two pass catchers in this offense for as long as Darnold remains out, and potentially beyond.

Ian Hartitz

All things NFL. Great day to be great. You can follow Ian on Twitter @Ihartitz.