By: Steve Johnson
Sam Darnold, QB, USC
6’3″ 221, 31″ arms, 9 3/8″ hands
4.85 40, 26.5″ vert, 8’9″ broad jump
2016: 13 games. 246/366 (67.2). 3086 yards. 31 TDs. 9 int.
2017: 14 games. 303/480 (63.1). 4143 yards. 26 TDs. 13 int.
Misc. Stats: Rushed 137 times for 332 yards and 7 TDs in career.
Accolades: Orange County Offensive Player of the Year, High School All-American, 2016 Archie Griffin Award Winner, 2016 Pac-12 Freshmen of the Year, 2017 First-team All Pac-12, 2017 Rose Bowl Champion
Injuries: Suffered a foot injury his junior year in High School.
History: Not highly recruited, only started 1 full year at San Clemente High School (played WR and LB). Was also an exception basketball player , which helped him receive football scholarships from Oregon, Utah, Northwestern, and Duke. Comes from an athletic family (grandfather played basketball at USC and was an Olympic Volleyball player). Redshirted in 2015 behind Cody Kessler and Max Browne (Browne eventually transferred to Pittsburgh when it Darnold’s talent was clear).
Strengths: Good NFL Size. Sneaky athletic, can make plays with his legs. Good feet, his agility (6.96 3 cone drill, one of the best among QBs) makes it clear that he has a history of playing basketball. Can get you a first down on the ground here and there, and will buy time with his feet. Works through progressions very nicely. Has excellent timing on short to intermediate throws. Very good velocity, trusts his arm talent. Confident and tough. Has the mental makeup to be the leader of a franchise from day one.
Weaknesses: The redshirt sophomore only started 3 full years at QB in High School and at USC. Has had some trouble holding onto the football (fumbled 11 times last year). His poor windup and release are a direct cause of some of said turnovers (also 13 int in 2017). Arm thrower, needs to learn to drive the ball more. Can be somewhat of a reckless gun slinger, add that with the wind up and could be dangerous at the next level.
Overview: Darnold has the skill set to be a franchise QB and is the clear cut #1 QB in the class. He has the size, arm talent, and is a good athlete. He could work on his mechanics a little bit, to limit turnovers. Darnold should be the first QB off the board, and can start day one.
Draft Projection: Top 5 Pick
Phanaddict Draft Grade: 6.7