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USC Trojan Football: Why Sam Darnold Should Forgo the 2018 NFL Draft

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A recent report brings to light an alternative path to the QB’s NFL career

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Rose Bowl Game presented by Northwestern Mutual - USC v Penn State Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

It seems as if the Sam Darnold Hype Train might have a longer voyage than previously anticipated according to to NFL.com’s Daniel Jeremiah:

The talented signal-caller was a participant in the Elite 11 competition as a high schooler and he returned this year to visit and workout. There was buzz about Darnold's impressive showing in the QB competition at the event. However, when I asked the coaches/staffers what stood out about Darnold, they each mentioned his humility and willingness to learn. He's always asking questions and he doesn't act like he has all of the answers. I also had several sources close to Darnold tell me they wouldn't be surprised if Darnold played two more seasons at USC. As a redshirt sophomore, he can declare for the draft as early as 2018.

Now this is all rumor and speculation and it is easy to write off Darnold staying past his junior season. The possibility of his rookie contract as well as a plethora of endorsements and sponsorships would be too much to pass up for a such a young athlete—or any person, really.

Even more so, potentially being the top overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft and cementing his celebrity in not just the sports world, but in the streets of Hollywood where the uptown “casual fans” have been clamoring for their next Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush running mates.

And let’s be real, Darnold’s mug would be on every form of media that ESPN, FS1 and the other sports media powerhouses offer everyday leading up to the draft (and most likely TMZ).

But we’ve seen this story before…

When we think of Mark Sanchez, we don’t think of the former first team All-Pac-10 selection and 2009 Rose Bowl MVP. No, there are only two words to describe the fifth overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft:

BUTT. FUMBLE.

The flash-in-a-pan QBs are common in college football and while some first-year phenoms have had large collegiate success followed by NFL success—most recently in Jameis Winston, too often do these type of QBs fall flat in college (Brad Kaaya, anyone?) or ultimately completely undone in the NFL (here’s looking at you Johnny Football).

Taking that into consideration, a few items make it glaringly obvious that Darnold remain the Trojans signal-caller into the 2019 season.

Development Meter is Pointing UP

With quintessential quarterback size at 6’4” and 225 lbs., Darnold has shown to have more than adequate athleticism, evident in his lateral quickness to evade rushers as well as being only a year removed from being the fifth-best dual QB in the nation with a class that featured Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and Auburn’s Jarett Stidham.

From what we know in the small sample Darnold has played thus far, his intangibles are what perk ears of fans and analysts alike. His awareness of knowing both where the trouble is coming from and where his teammates are is astonishing in such a young player.

Seemingly inherent from his instincts is Darnold’s accuracy. Granted he played in all 13 games last season while starting all but three—and was only sacked six times while completing nearly 68 percent of his passes on nine interceptions. According to Pro Football Focus, Darnold’s accuracy is elite regardless of situation as he completed 68.4 percent of passes while facing blitzes last season and was sacked a Pac-12 low 8.6 percent of the time when facing blitzes on dropback passes.

Here we see it all into play. Darnold senses the edge rushers closing in—yet he has the quickness to step up into the pocket and hits pinpoint throw in the endzone.

Undeniably Talented Supporting Cast

With all of these talents and abilities, Darnold may be on the cusp of playing with one of the more stacked Trojan teams in well over a decade.

Already featuring one of the best running backs in college football with junior Ronald Jones II and a wide array of receivers including sophomore Michael Pittman Jr. and redshirt junior Jalen Greene, USC will be home to a deep arsenal of offensive weapons in the seasons to come.

The Trojans already had the fourth-best recruiting class in 2017 headlined by five-star running back Stephen Carr and four-star wide receiver Joseph Lewis and are now in the top-10 2018 recruiting class with commitments from top-ranked center Justin Dedich and four-star tight end Camren McDonald.

It is very evident that the strong supporting class Darnold already has now will quickly develop into one of the best offenses in the nation and most likely elevate Darnold’s abilities and statistics to another level.

No Ideal Landing Spots in the Upcoming Draft

Granted if Darnold has the Heisman-type season most are anticipating him to have, he’ll make a strong case to be the first quarterback selected if not the first overall selection of the 2018 NFL Draft. By that time, many NFL teams would have “Sucked for Sam” and have tanked their season in hopes they select their franchise savior.

The New York Jets have gotten off to an excellent start as they’ve successfully purged their roster and have left the team virtually devoid of any legitimate talent. Would it be wise to take what would be a then 21-year-old quarterback with tons of potential and promise to a dumpster fire of a team? In short, NO!

Essentially, remove the phrase “dumpster fire of a team” and insert any of the following teams and ask yourself the same question:

Cleveland Browns?

San Francisco 49ers?

Jacksonville Jaguars?

Answer: STILL NO!

Make no mistake about it, rookie QBs—and QBs in general, are as successful as what is around them. It’s no surprise that experienced collegiate starters in Dak Prescott and Carson Wentz were as successful as they were because of their situation.

Wentz went to a Philadelphia Eagles franchise whose coaching staff featured head coach Doug Pederson, offensive coordinator Frank Reich and QB coach John DeFilippo. All three are former signal callers and all three have had traceable success with NFL quarterbacks.

As for Prescott, having a Pro Bowl offensive line, All-Pro WR, future Hall of Fame tight end and this guy in the backfield… you’re going to have some success.

Avoiding potential pitfalls in the aforementioned teams by opting to leave for the draft a season after they’ve chosen a QB in the draft or have committed a large sum of money for a veteran, Darnold would be wise to carefully choose for the sake of his long term NFL success.

At the end of the day, Sam Darnold will make his choice much all quaterbacks before him. Unlike most quarterbacks before him however—Darnold has the chance to choose his own destiny and not leave anything to fate, something LA’s very own Lavar Ball would certainly approve of.