NFL Draft Prospect Breakdown: Sam Darnold

Other Breakdowns

Quenton Nelson – 93/100
Saquon Barkley
 – 92/100
Tremaine Edmunds – 89/100
Bradley Chubb – 89/100
Derwin James – 88/100
Roquan Smith – 87/100
Minkah Fitzpatrick – 87/100
Harold Landry – 85/100
Rashaan Evans – 84/100
Will Hernandez – 84/100
Baker Mayfield – 84/100
Josh Rosen – 83/100
Lamar Jackson – 82/100
Marcus Davenport – 82/100
Calvin Ridley – 81/100
Josh Allen – 77/100
Leighton Vander Esch – 77/100

Stats, Awards, and Accolades

darny darny2

Class: Redshirt Sophomore
Height: 6’3″
Weight: 221 lbs
Awards & Accolades: First-team All-Pac-12 (2017), Pac-12 Offensive Freshman of the Year (2016)

Sam Darnold only spent two years as the starting quarterback for USC, but in those two years, he certainly did a lot. He led the conference in yards per attempt and overall passing yards in 2017, but he also threw the most interceptions of anyone in the conference. His touchdown to interception ratio in 2017 was two-to-one, one of the worst in the class. However, his completion percentage of 64.9% is one of the best in Pac-12 history. Darnold’s stats certainly leave a lot of questions to be answered.

For this breakdown, I rewatched two of Darnold’s games from the 2017 season: the cross-town rivalry matchup against UCLA, and USC’s bowl game against Ohio State. UCLA’s defense ranked 120th in Bill Connely’s defensive rankings, the second-worst among power five teams, and Ohio State’s defense ranked 8th. I really looked at two polar ends of the spectrum. Both of these games were in primetime, as I wanted to see how he would fare under pressure.

Pros

Hard to sack
Tough
Looks defenders off
Arm talent
Great touch
Athletic
Throws to the sideline well
Good ball placement
Can put touch on the ball
Good under pressure
Good teammate
High potential
Great accuracy

Cons

Mechanics
Sometimes does not set feet
Inconsistent reading the field
Poor decision maker
Reckless
Turns the ball over too much

Grades

Short/Intermediate Accuracy – 9/10
Field Vision – 7.5/10
Footwork – 8.5/10
Decision-Making – 6.5/10
Under Pressure – 7.5/10
Deep Accuracy – 8.5/10
Arm Strength – 8/10
Mobility – 8.5/10

Scheme Fits

West Coast – 9/10
Vertical – 9.5/10
Spread – 8/10

Overall Grade: 83/100

reminder, this where I think he should go, not where he will go, these rankings also DO NOT take into account positional importance

90+ Superstar
85+ Elite Player (Top Ten)
80+ First Round Talent
77+ Second Round Talent
74+ Third Round Talent
66+ Third Day Talent (Rounds 4-7)

10/10 Rating – Best in the class or close to it
7.5/10 Rating – Average
5/10 Rating – Poor

Darnold’s mechanics aren’t always great, but when they are, he is the most accurate passer in this draft. He is not as consistent as Josh Rosen yet, but should Darnold get a year to develop his talents a little bit more, he might have the greatest potential out of this group of quarterbacks. My biggest criticism of Darnold is his ability to read the field and make decisions. His touchdown to interception ratio for 2017 was one of the lowest of this class, and he certainly sometimes misses easy reads and tries to fit the ball into places where it is near impossible to throw to. Darnold has the accuracy to make those highlight precision throws occasionally, but he also throws plenty of interception trying to be a hero and make a play that a normal quarterback would not even attempt. That is the type of thing that a year under veteran leadership would help with.

Darnold is not my highest-rated quarterback of this class, but he will be in my top three, and that is because the USC sophomore has plenty of positives: he has a solid arm, he is athletic, is a great teammate, and has awesome ball placement. The accuracy inconsistency and his trouble reading the field feel like things that can be fixed at the next level. I would have Darnold at around a mid-first round grade, although because of positional importance I’d be shocked if he falls out of the top three.

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