The USC pro day was today and it couldn’t have worked out better for their former signal caller, Sam Darnold. It just so happened to rain in Southern California on Wednesday and Darnold thrived throwing in the precipitation. The perception is with most USC quarterbacks is that they’re overhyped and only can succeed in California with perfect conditions. Darnold is different!
Unlike USC failures like Matt Leinart, Matt Barkley, and Mark Sanchez, Darnold is much different because he isn’t like the overhyped USC quarterback because he was never recruited to be that guy. Both Max Browne and Ricky Town were the 5-star recruits who would have followed in that recent stretch. Both Browne and Town stink, of course, but Darnold was actually first recruited as a linebacker. When Darnold switched to quarterback late in his high school career, it was clear that Darnold represents what is the future of the position.
We have already seen a bit of a changing of the guard at quarterback. No longer are teams willing to sacrifice for drafting imobile quarterbacks. Think about it, five years from now who is the face of the quarterback position in the NFL? Is it Deshaun Watson? Is it Andrew Luck? Is it Carson Wentz? Sam Darnold fits that mold. Big, thick, strong, mobile, clutch, and poised are the words to describe Sam Darnold. After deciding not to throw at the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine, Darnold decided to set his attention towards the USC Pro Day and he did not disapoint.
Darnold has been working with quarterback coach Jordan Palmer and has really focused on his footwork. While Darnold already has solid footwork, there isn’t a ton of throws from under center and there can be an adjustment in the NFL. Darnold did nothing but put on a show proving that he is a complete quarterback.
— NFL (@NFL) March 21, 2018
Darnold has everything you want to see. He throws the ball off his back foot and really drives the football. He’s also incredibly mobile for an almost 6-foot-3 quarterback. Darnold’s ball really cuts through the wind and has plus arm strength. In a cold weather city like Cleveland or New York, Darnold fits those cities perfectly. Remember, there is never adversity in these pro day’s Darnold didn’t just thrive in the conditions, he prayed for them.
Later in the Pro Day (Click this line for the highlights), the rain really picked up. It didn’t phase him one bit. Sure you might be saying to yourself ‘It’s just rain’ but keep in mind that these are NFL caliber throws. The velocity, touch, timing, and rythem, to very below average college wide receivers in beyond impressive. In terms of Pro Days that I’ve seen in recent years from start to finish, this very well might be the best one. Sam Darnold is the best quarterback in the 2018 NFL Draft and it really isn’t close.
The rain is coming down at @USC_Athletics' Pro Day and Sam Darnold is putting on a show.
????: LIVE on NFL Network https://t.co/qUYx19GwCA
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) March 21, 2018
Darnold is frankly better than any quarterback prospect out there. If the Browns were smart, they would take him with the first overall pick. The prospect that people seem to love the most at this point would probably be Josh Rosen. The thing that seperates the two is that Darnold is way more mobile. Rosen compares favorably to Eli Manning or less favorably to Peyton Manning. Regardless, Rosen will be a statue of sorts in the pocket. Now that’s now a bad thing per say and Rosen does have an extensive tennis background that helps his balance among other things, the problem is he can’t improvise off script the way Darnold can. The Texas game earlier this year was a perfect example of this. A jump pass late in the fourth quarter to save the day? You can’t make this stuff up.
Rosen also has major injury history. You have to be concerned that Rosen could become the next Sam Bradford. Concussions and shoulder issues have caused Rosen to miss more than a fair share of games in college. Darnold did nothing but show up and play every game. Considering Darnold’s bulky linebacker esk frame, you can likely expect him to suit up on a regular basis in the NFL. Both Rosen and Darnold put up big numbers in the Pac 12 but the difference is Darnold may have the celing of Aaron Rodgers.
While Darnold’s improvistion is unreal, he also is just a really good pure passer. This isn’t Jake Locker coming out of Washington throwing for 100 yards per game, this is Sam Darnold who threw for 7,229 yards in 27 games. 57 touchdowns and a 153.7 quarterback rating in his career is also pretty darn good. The thing that seperates Darnold from another top prospect, Josh Allen, is that on field production. Allen failed to come close to a 60 percent thrower the past two years (2016 – 56% AND 2017 – 56.3%). Allen also threw 16 touchdowns and 6 interceptions to go with only 1,812 yards on the season. Now Allen’s teammates were god awful, there’s no denying that playing in the PAC 12 in much tougher competition so there’s a solid argument to be made on either side. Regardless failing to throw for 60% in college has become a fortune teller of NFL success. Remember DeShone Kizer? He couldn’t throw for 60% in college either. Neither did Christian Hackenberg, Jack Locker, or Kyle Boller.
The other top quarterback in the class (according to miss foolish experts) is Baker Mayfield. Sure, Mayfield has some talent but his ceiling is probably Case Keenum. We’re also not factoring into the conversation that Darnold carried the USC program. Mayfield was just another cog in the Lincoln Riley system. Mayfield put up massive numbers in college but so did Sam Bradford, Jason White, Brandon Weeden, Bryce Petty, RG3, and many other quarterbacks in the video game/pillow fight conference.
Riley is one of the best collegiate coaches in the sport. USC on the other hand had a graduate assistant calling plays for much of the season. Clay Helton is horrendous and was rushed to a promotion far too soon because of the Steve Sarkisian incident at the program. Oklahoma’s talent was simply far superior compared to USC. Orlando Brown is going to get drafted high. Both running backs Trey Sermon and Rodney Anderson are studs. Mark Andrews might be the best tight end in this draft class. Ask yourself, outside of Ronald Jones, who the hell did Darnold have to work with? Darnold is flex seal, he masked massive holes on his college roster including a beyond terrible offensive line. Mayfield was just another Big 12 quarterback who put up numbers. Don’t worry, Kyler Murray will do the exact same thing in 2018. Never forget Dak Prescott had no talent in college either. Scout the talent around the quarterback!
Never forget, part of the reason why Mayfield will never make it is his attidue. Check out his interview with NFL Network. He thanked the ball assistants. That stuff matters. Obviously Mayfield’s measurables of being a short and below average athlete obvious help Darnold’s case as well.
— NFL (@NFL) March 21, 2018
The biggest concern with Darnold are his turnover numbers. Realistically college interceptions mean nothing. 13 interceptions in 14 games shouldn’t bother you. In fact, it’s probably a good thing that he’s not like Andy Dalton and is willing to push the ball far down the field. Never forget Deshaun Watson threw 17 interceptions in college during his final year at Clemson. It never mattered because he’s a superstar. So is Darnold. Part of the reason why I loved Deshaun Watson is because he had that IT quality, got better in the fourth quarter, and always found a way to win. Deshaun Watson lost 2 games his final two years in college including a National Championship win over Alabama. Doesn’t that sound like Darnold who went 20-3 as a starter, always played better late in games, and had a heroic game in the Rose Bowl against Penn State? Just like last year when team’s regreted not taking Deshaun Watson, don’t make the same mistake with Sam Darnold. The USC quarterback should be the first pick in the draft. Oh, before I go, I’m not going to compare his to Lamar Jackson because he obviously has no chance to make it in the NFL.