3 big Panthers takeaways from Day 1 of the 2021 NFL Draft

Dean Jones
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Jaycee Horn
(Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Jaycee Horn /
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Carolina Panthers
(Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) Matt Rhule /

Matt Rhule is betting big on Sam Darnold

There was a large section of the team’s fanbase – together with some analysts – that thought the Carolina Panthers might go with Justin Fields if he was sitting there at No. 8. This proved to be the case after the San Francisco 49ers ended up taking Trey Lance and no team made a move up, but those in power opted to let the signal-caller drop further and select Jaycee Horn instead.

This was met by dismay, for the most part. But head coach Matt Rhule firmly believes that Sam Darnold can turn things around in Carolina despite going through his fair share of complications throughout his three-year stint with the New York Jets, which was not entirely his fault by any stretch of the imagination.

Rhule has placed a tremendous amount of faith in Darnold to get the job done far better than Teddy Bridgewater managed to achieve in 2020. But this is far from a guarantee and if things turn sour, it won’t take long for the natives to get restless.

If Darnold doesn’t work out and Fields goes on to have a sensational career with the Chicago Bears, this will define Rhule’s tenure and might even cost him his job. Carolina can ill-afford to go back to square one at quarterback yet again next year and it’s on Darnold’s shoulders to repay the faith shown in him by his new head coach.