Weight: 221 pounds
School: USC Trojans
Combine Performance Data
40-yard dash: 4.85 seconds
Vertical jump: 26.5 inches
Broad jump: 8 feet, 9 inches
Three-cone drill: 6.96 seconds (tied for fifth among quarterbacks)
20-yard shuttle: 4.40 seconds
Sam Darnold 2018 NFL Draft Profile
Sam Darnold is coming into April’s draft as arguably the most talked about prospect this past season. Darnold started the draft process as a four-star recruit out of San Clemente High School in the town of the same name. He was a successful multi-sport athlete in high school, earning All-Division honors in both basketball and football among other awards during his time there.
Darnold committed as part of their 2015 recruiting class. USC at that point had been going through some tough years. The Lane Kiffin experiment did not go as planned and the school, which was once a college football powerhouse less than 10 years prior, had become mediocre for a big name program. In 2014, the Trojans seemed to be set with new coach Steve Sarkisian and the program looked to be making progress.
However, in 2015 USC seemed like they would be fading back into mediocrity. A surprising and public firing of Sarkisian left USC with their fourth new head coach, including interim head coaches, in four seasons. Darnold spent that season on the bench as he red-shirted in 2015.
The following year, things didn’t seem like they were getting any better. After going 1-2 to open the season, including two embarrassing losses to Alabama and Stanford, Darnold was given the keys to the car as a redshirt freshman, replacing Max Browne at quarterback. Darnold lost his first start against a ranked Utah team and then never lost again in that season. He almost single-handedly brought USC back to the forefront of the college football landscape. His season ended with a come from behind victory in the Rose Bowl against a favored Big Ten champion Penn State team.
After that game, the “Suck for Sam” started as every quarterback-needy fanbase saw this kid as the potential savior of their franchise. The hype died down a little bit in 2017 as it was seen that Darnold took a step back in his sophomore year after he led the FBS in turnovers. However, USC still won their first Pac-12 title since 2008. Their bowl game against Big Ten champions Ohio State is what did Darnold in though. Greg Schiano’s NFL style defense carved him and the Trojan offense up and made Darnold look foolish at times. Yet, even with that, Darnold remains high-value prospect and a potential top pick.
- Underrated athletic ability;
- Can throw accurately on the run with velocity and power;
- Big Ben level ability to buy time in the pocket;
- Short accuracy;
- Big play ability as well as being able to improvise with success;
- Leadership qualities;
- Pocket poise and awareness – ability against pressure and blitz;
- Able to read the defense and go through progressions.
- Will force passes at times;
- Propensity for turnovers;
- Doesn’t have the cleanest mechanics in the world;
- Could improve deep ball accuracy;
- Not the most experienced player with just two seasons worth of starts.
NFL Comparison: Brett Favre
Projection: top five pick with potential to go first overall
Darnold is a franchise quarterback. His hype may have died down a bit this past season but it’s not as bad as the public made it seem. This happens every year with top prospects. These players get put on pedestals after a big season, but because they aren’t eligible for the draft immediately following their big season, media scouts and the public don’t go through their tape as carefully as they usually would. Once their draft comes up and the tape starts being watched it becomes obvious that the prospect isn’t perfect, but he never was. The problems that Darnold had in 2017 didn’t just form this past year. He always had them.
However, contrary to popular belief, he actually progressed in 2017. His accuracy, decision making, and mechanics all improved from the previous season. When watching two years of film one can see that Darnold is learning, which should make people feel a bit better about his turnover concerns. His turnover issues seemed to be because of two reasons: A) miscommunication between him and a receiver and B) forced throws. The miscommunication turnovers never truly go away in the NFL, but that happens to every quarterback. The forced throws can be fixed. He’ll always be a gunslinger and he’ll always force passes, but expect him to be pickier with his forced passes as he gets coached up.
Darnold is a start now prospect, who will make Sportscenter top plays in his rookie year, as well as mind-numbing terrible plays. He is a player who needs to learn while playing and needs to go to a team that can start him in year one. He probably won’t win Rookie of the Year in 2018, but he’s a future Pro Bowl quarterback who can lead a franchise for the next ten years.