QB Sam Darnold, Southern California*

6’3″ – 221 lbs. – 4.85

Redshirted in 2015. Following Cody Kessler’s graduation (third round pick of the Cleveland Browns in 2016), won the starting job from Max Browne during the subsequent season, starting nine of thirteen games played as a redshirt freshman. Earned first-team all-conference honors this past season and decided to forego his final two seasons of eligibility to declare for the draft. Has good size for his position. Something of a hard-nosed, throwback quarterback temperamentally; desirable mental makeup for a pro passer. Worked out of the shotgun in college and will need to adjust to taking snaps from under center in terms of his footwork and in terms of turning his back to the defense. Lets the ball dip a little bit in his release, which looks similar to Russell Wilson’s. Despite some inconsistencies in his footwork and weight transfer, is a good rhythm passer who throws with accuracy, even when throwing downfield or outside the hashes; makes some beautiful throws down the sidelines. Uses appropriate touch/velocity on his throws, with a catchable ball. Has a strong enough arm to complete passes outside the hashes. Willing to take chances downfield, but generally those are calculated risks, with decision-making issues cropping up only occasionally. Able to see the whole field with vision/awareness; showed that he is capable of manipulating safeties with his eyes. Not a great athlete but has enough speed to pick up first downs when given a clear lane; able to put his head down and fight for yardage. Is able to complete passes on the run; although his accuracy is generally good when outside the pocket, however, decision-making can suffer. Has a tendency to hold onto the ball and flee the pocket prematurely rather than climbing against outside pressure. Had some issues with both fumbles and interceptions last season. Tough demeanor, combined with broken foot sustained in high school, could create some minor concerns about his durability. Possibly the safest prospect in this year’s quarterback crop, given that he was asked to go through progressions, make pro-style throws outside the hashes and down the field, and offers a good temperament for a pro quarterback. Those traits should make him one of the first players off the board this year, although some of his competitors for number one overall, namely Josh Allen and Josh Rosen, may have somewhat higher upside. Ability to protect the football will determine how successful he becomes at the next level.

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