Breaking Down the QB’s: Sam Darnold
Over the next few days leading up to my second mock draft, I’m going to be breaking down the top four quarterbacks in the draft. Darnold, Mayfield, Rosen, and Allen are widely considered the top quarterbacks in this draft class. I’ll break them down based on intangibles, collegiate stats, and my opinion of when I watched them. I will give their physical stats, but what I will not do is bore you with who is two inches taller than the other guy or whose hand is a 1/4 inch bigger than whose. Without further ado, on to analyzing the first of the top four quarterbacks.
Sam Darnold, Redshirt Sophomore, 6-4, 220lbs from USC
No one was hurt more by having to go back to school than Darnold. If he could have come out after the Rose Bowl game vs Penn State in 2017, he would have been the number one overall pick and there would have been no one questioning that decision. As they say, the more film that they have of you, the more opportunity for folks to pick apart your game. Against Penn State, he went 33-53, throwing for 453 yards and five TD’s with one INT. He completed 62% of his passes and went on to win 52-49. He was awesome that game! I remember watching him thinking he was the dude that if he left right then he would be the number one pick. I couldn’t wait for 2017, where he would be the favorite to win the Heisman and have his team at the top of the standings competing for the playoffs. Admittedly, his team was not as good as they were in 2016, so he did not have as much help. By the same token, if you are the number one pick you need to be able to take your team into hostile environments against good teams and compete. In 2017 they lost to a decent Washington State team where Sam did not play well by any measure. He was 15-29 for 153 yards, zero TD’s and one INT, having a completion percentage of 51%. Then came two losses that really diminished his stock in my eyes, getting blown out by 35 by a very average Notre Dame squad and getting blasted by Ohio State in the Cotton Bowl 24-7.
Darnold’s inability to keep his team in both of those games is a little concerning. Looking at those scores, I question his leadership ability. If I’m drafting number one for a team that has won one game in the last two years, I cannot have any doubts about the leadership ability of my franchise quarterback. Another knock on Darnold, is he turns the ball over way too much to make him the number one pick. For some reason this has not been given the attention it deserves by the media when talking about Darnold. A quarterback needs to have two abilities coming out of college. One is accuracy, which he seems to possess, and the other is the ability to take care of the ball, an area he seems to struggle. Darnold accounted for 42 turnovers in his 27 game career at USC. He threw 22 INTs and lost 20 fumbles. In Darnold’s two years as a QB at USC, he was 21-6 overall with one Pac-12 Championship. Watching a lot of his games, he did have to lead his team from behind a lot, especially during the 2017 season.
Hall of Fame Coach Bill Parcells has seven benchmarks he would like to see a QB have if he is going to draft him and they are:
- Be a three-year starter
- Be a senior in college
- Graduate from college
- Start 30 games
- Win 23 games
- Post a 2:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio
- Complete at least 60-percent of passes thrown
While none of the criteria takes into account traits identifiable on film, the central theme behind Parcells’ rules is to narrow the field of quarterbacks down to those who are accurate, make good decisions, are mentally tough and finish what they start.
I’m going to evaluate the QBs with the same criteria (Who am I to disagree with a Hall of Famer with multiple rings?)
As for Darnold:
- 3-year starter – NO
- Senior in College – NO
- Graduate from College – NO
- Start 30 games – NO (24)
- Win 23 games – NO (21)
- Post a 2:1 TD to Int ratio – YES (57:21) (If you add in fumbles the number is nowhere near 2:1)
- Complete at least 60% of his passes YES (64.9%)
Darnold meets 2/7 criteria unless you add in fumbles, which I think you must do and then he meets 1/7.
Knowing all of this, would you draft Darnold with the first overall pick?