There surely weren't many fantasy football players who targeted Sam Darnold during their drafts heading into the 2021 season.
Perhaps they should have.
Darnold led the Carolina Panthers to a 24-9 victory over the Houston Texans on Thursday and turned in his third consecutive impressive statistical performance. Here is a look at his final numbers:
- 23-of-34 passing for 304 yards; 8 carries for 11 yards and 2 TDs
It is an understatement to say Darnold looks like a different quarterback with offensive coordinator Joe Brady than he did while trying to find consistency with the New York Jets.
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Sam Darnold Passing Chart vs Texans 🎯<br><br>Darnold finished 9/11 for 198 yards on passes traveling 10+ air yards, completing +24.7% of passes over expected according to our completion probability model, a new career-high.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/CARvsHOU?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#CARvsHOU</a> | Powered by <a href="https://twitter.com/awscloud?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@awscloud</a> <a href="https://t.co/EQ2LTxIVBC">pic.twitter.com/EQ2LTxIVBC</a>
One of the first things that jumped out from a fantasy perspective Thursday was his running ability. He scored his first touchdown on a read-option keeper and then showed toughness with a quarterback sneak at the goal line.
He also had a 32-yard run that was called back because of a holding penalty.
Considering Christian McCaffrey suffered a hamstring injury, the Panthers may ask Darnold to be more of a running threat. He also scored with his legs during a season-opening win over the Jets.
It is more likely Carolina will rely on its aerial attack if McCaffrey is sidelined.
That would be welcome news for fantasy players since Darnold threw for more than 300 yards for the second straight game, which is something he never did with New York. He has a clear connection with DJ Moore, who consistently torched the Houston secondary.
He finished with eight catches for 126 yards and looks the part of a No. 1 option.
While Darnold shouldn't be placed in the same fantasy category as Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and the league's elite quarterbacks, he is worthy of consideration for those who do not have one of the NFL's top signal-callers.
The fantasy numbers should only improve in Week 4 as well, as the Panthers visit the Dallas Cowboys, who have given up 338 yards and a touchdown to Justin Herbert and 379 yards and four touchdowns to Brady.
Darnold is a viable streaming option for next week and someone daily fantasy players should target.