Sam Darnold May Start for the 49ers

Sam Darnold may start for the San Francisco 49ers
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Jeremy Fowler of SportsCenter reported Sunday that former Carolina Panthers quarterback Sam Darnold might be QB1 in San Francisco. Fowler said multiple teams believe “this is a guy who could start for them Week 1, play meaningful snaps…if Trey Lance is going to play, he’s going to have to earn it against Darnold.” It is certainly surprising to hear that Darnold is in contention to start for the 49ers. After all, San Francisco traded up to select Lance in the 2021 NFL draft. He seems the likely candidate to play if breakout rookie Brock Purdy cannot play due to his elbow injury.

Darnold vs. Lance

Since his selection in 2021, Darnold has averaged 210.1 yards per game, thrown 61 touchdowns to 55 interceptions, and registered just a 78.2 passer rating. He would not be making headlines if he had signed with most other teams in the league. However, Kyle Shanahan has shown an ability to elevate quarterbacks, such as he did with Purdy this season.

Trey Lance has played just eight games in his two seasons in the NFL. He was the starter last season before a season-ending ankle injury in the team’s second game. However, Lance was electric in college for North Dakota State, and his dual-threat ability caused him to become the third overall pick. His more recent draft pedigree and the fact that San Francisco traded up to get him give him the edge.

Will Darnold start for the 49ers in 2023?

Even if he doesn’t open the season as QB1, it is very possible that we see him behind center at some point this season. With Purdy potentially missing the start of the season, if Lance gets injured Darnold will have to step in and run the San Francisco offense. Fowler reported that many teams see Darnold as a good fit in Shanahan’s offense. If there’s one thing Shanahan has made clear, it is that he can run a successful offense with just about anybody under center.

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