Draft Insiders’ Rookie Spotlight – QB Sam Darnold – Jets
by Frank Coyle
Each week Draft Insiders’ will do a Rookie spotlight and post their Scouting Report from our NFL Draft 2018 Yearbook. It was written thru the fall into March annually.
Week 1 in the NFL showcased two New York top picks, Jets’ QB Sam Darnold and Giants’ running back Saquon Barkley. Both had impressive pro debuts and are key components on these revamped offenses.
Barkley overcame an alarming pick six on his very first NFL play to lead the Jets to a surprising blowout of the hometown Lions. (Brett Farve also threw a pick six on his very first NFL play). Darnald displayed rare composure that allowed him to stay focus and direct a comeback that has Jet fans buzzing after years of frustration especially at the QB leadership position
Darnold was our #1 QB from August 2017 through April 2018 in the strongest group since the 2004 draft class. He was the 2nd QB drafted with the 3rd overall selection by the Jets. Five QBs were selected in the first round of the NFL Draft 2018 with four chosen in the top ten picks.
Draft Insiders’ 2018 Yearbook – March/April 2018
1 * Sam Darnold #14 – Southern California – 6-3, 220 – Sp. 4.75 Rating 93
Gritty talented redshirt sophomore led the Trojans to postseason appearances during his two seasons. Strong agile athlete with very good arm and quick footwork plus the intangibles to become a top-flight NFL starter. Despite a short resume and some erratic performances, he developed quickly and shows a well-rounded skill set to make the jump to the NFL. Natural physical traits coveted in an elite NFL passer, though not completely developed currently. He has fine intangibles with a blue-collar mentality. Despite his age, he shows excellent poise, anticipation, toughness, vision, leadership and competitive desire. Displays the complete physical and mental package with excellent production at a very high-level vs Pac-12 talent. Shows a tight compact delivery and capable of firing strikes from the pocket or on the move. Very good footwork to move in the pocket and create passing lanes and keep plays alive. Developing the experience to go through his check downs faster and finding secondary receivers. Attempted to do too much early in the 2017 season with an average supporting cast. Needs to learn to throw the ball away to live to play another down than forcing the ball into heavy coverage. Slides well in the pocket and can evade pressure well, reset his feet and plant to make a big throw. Maintains his vision down field very well looking for receivers to make their second move. Operated under center, but also spent time from the gun and needs work on his drop back and setting his feet while reading coverage. Shows the smarts and discipline to be a quick study, though must learn to make sound decisions with the ball. Displays the ability to deliver very accurate short and intermediate passes, as well as tossing strikes down the alleys. Possesses fine touch on deep passes as well as inside the red zone. Impressive to improvise and make adjustments to situations. Makes clutch throws with the game on the line. Shows a quick release and possesses very good arm strength. At times, he can stare down his primary target and telegraph his throws. When under pressure, he will make off-balance throws which has led to turnovers. He shows good ball handling with the ability to fake and draw defenders into false reads.
The Numbers: As a sophomore, he started all 14 games, leading USC to a 11-3 record. Completed 304 of 480 passes for 4143 yards with 26 TDs and 13 interceptions while earning 1st team Pac-12 honors. As a freshman, he played in 13 games and completed 246 of 366 passes for 3086 yards for 31 TDs and 9 interceptions. Over his career, he started only 22 games and threw for 7229 yards with 57 TD passes and 22 interceptions. He rushed for 7 TDs. His career finale in their loss to Ohio St in the Cotton Bowl he threw a pick six and had two fumbles. At the NFL Combine, he came in over 6’3” and 221 lbs. with 9 3/8” hands and 31” arms. He ran a 4.67 time with a 26.5” VJ and an 8’9” BJ and added a 4.40 shuttle and 6.96 three cone. Did not participate in the passing drills. At his pro day, he displayed good velocity, timing and accuracy. He helped his cause with a strong performance. Very similar to Lions’ Matt Stafford in body size, arm strength, delivery and overall temperament and AA.
The Skinny: Gifted sophomore makes all the throws. Fast improving talent with only two seasons starting experience vs NFL caliber defenders. Competitor takes command and displays very good football IQ and capable of making a difference in crunch time. Athletic strong frame and size to hold up to the physical demands of the game. Shows the toughness and defense recognition to continue to develop as a winning starter. Needs to sit and settle into a system for a little time especially recognizing coverage and going through his progressions. One of the QB gems in recent years and intriguing raw prospect with huge upside potential to develop into a Pro Bowl performer. Talented blue-chip prospect with the Browns looking to land in the top selection.
Draft Projection: 1st Round – Top overall pick