Devy Profile: QB Sam Darnold, USC

“Trust the Process,” a saying I’m sure many of you have either embraced, or gotten entirely sick of hearing. Sparked by Philadelphia 76ers GM Sam Hinkie, and now carried on by the 76ers players and most famously by Joel Embiid. This “process” was set out by Hinkie as a long term plan: Miserably fail for many seasons, and therefore gather top picks and prospects that would eventually form a team capable of winning championships. In the NBA, one player can completely turn around a franchise, or flip the league on over on its head. Look at Lebron James, a dynasty unto himself, James has gone to 7 straight finals and has been the face of the NBA for more than the last decade.

In the other 3 of the 4 major sports leagues in America (NFL, MLB, NHL), one position in one league can almost single handedly turn around a franchise: The Quarterback. All the way back to the Cleveland Browns dynasty from 1946-1955, where Quarterback Otto Graham led his Browns to 10 straight championship appearances in both the AAFC and the NFL (Cleveland joined the NFL in 1950). To the Tom Brady led Patriots dynasty which has lasted from 2001 to present. Sure, you can point to the coaches may be equally behind those runs, Paul Brown for the Browns, and Bill Belichick for the Patriots.  But in the NFL draft, it’s players you’re drafting, not coaches. To the Jets fans preparing for a dreadful season, or the Browns fans who may still need their franchise savior, I present you the prize for what may look like a season of tanking: the option between USC quarterback Sam Darnold, and Wyoming QB Josh Allen. Well worth 17 weeks of misery, these quarterbacks each have the talent to be perennial pro bowlers and to turn around even the most downtrodden franchises in sports. Today, we will be looking at Sam Darnold, the redshirt sophomore who lit up the college football world, leading the Trojans to a 52-49 over Penn State as he threw for a Rose Bowl record 5 touchdowns and accounted for 473 total yards. Darnold comes into 2017 as a Heisman favorite and looks to improve on his 2016 year where in 13 games he threw for 3,086 yards, 31 touchdowns to 9 interceptions, and had a 67.2 completion percentage. Let’s break down Darnold’s game to illustrate just how special he is.

 

Strengths

Mechanics: The one thing I would ask of Darnold is to improve the first part of his throwing motion in which he drops the ball down to his ribs making his motion unnecessarily, a little bit longer. Fortunately, he is

Other than that, Darnold’s mechanics are picture perfect. Not only is his release lightning quick (even before he shortens it). Darnold, technique wise, get’s to his L shape consistently and gets his arm extended fully as he releases the ball as well as anyone.

 

Accuracy: What makes Darnold’s accuracy really impressive, is in the way he does it. Most quarterbacks need a clean pocket so that they can step into their throws and deliver strikes, not Darnold. From back foot throws to mid air throws, Darnold is consistently on the money. His downfield accuracy is specifically impressive and ready to strike fear in NFL defensive coordinators. Almost all credit to his mechanics and little to his footwork, Darnold’s accuracy is one of his many weapons.

 

Pocket Presence: As you can see in the tweet above, Darnold is certainly capable of making some extraordinary plays while under pressure. The Trojan senses rushers very well and is even better at evading them and buying time to find his receivers. With his ability to throw the ball on the run, Darnold has a pocket presence game that could one day be up there with Aaron Rodgers.

 

Mobility: He may not be a Lamar Jackson running the football, but make no mistake Sam Darnold is capable of doing some damage with his legs. A very solid athlete, I graded out Darnold’s mobility at an 8 out of 10, expect the kind of mobility we see in Carson Wentz and this year’s #10 pick Patrick Mahomes.

 

Decision Making: Sure, Darnold made a head scratching decision every now and then last year, but you gotta remember he was a freshman. Looking at the bigger picture, we see Darnold looking downfield, taking calculated risks, while also accepting what the defense gives him when that’s what the Trojans need.

 

Weaknesses

Footwork: Even with no adjustment to his feet, Darnold is a lock for a top 5 pick and would still have the tools necessary to be a franchise quarterback. So far, a lack of proper footwork has not caught up with Darnold, and who knows, he might just be able to get by using the strengths we talked about. There are many times Darnold throws caution to the wind and throws off footing you definitely wouldn’t teach, only to have it hit the receiver in the chest. You need not look past last season’s rookie sensation Dak Prescott to see a QB whom under pressure often times doesn’t step into throws, but nevertheless looks like the Cowboys franchise quarterback. So whether you want to be picky about Darnold’s footwork or not, I think it’s something to keep an eye on this year.

Here’s an example of Darnold (with good reason) throwing his whole body parallel to the receiver, something incredibly hard to do, but puts it on the money.

 

Summary

Every once in awhile a prospect comes along which fans want their teams to “tank” for, no matter how painful or ugly that year may be. Is Darnold that potential franchise savior? Absolutely. So cheer up Jets and Browns fans, your ticket out of the cellars of the NFL may just be right around the corner.

Utah

Washington

Notre Dame

Follow me on Twitter: @NFL_drafthub

 

bylitalo

Bradley Ylitalo, Minneapolis MN. Bethel Football Student Coach. Scouting/Devy writer for the Dynasty Football Factory. Follow me on twitter @NFL_drafthub or find me on facebook: Bradley Ylitalo

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