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2018 Pre-Scouting Combine Profile: A Look at Top Prospect Sam Darnold

Scouting the potential No. 1 pick of the 2018 NFL Draft

NCAA Football: Southern California at Washington Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The NFL Draft is fast approaching and many are wondering if Sam Darnold will live up to all the hype that surrounds him.

The USC community is split, some think declaring was the right move, some think he needed an extra year to mature and progress. While it can be argued for which of the two seasons of Darnold’s was the more productive one, the quarterback had a playbook full of elite moments both in this season and last.

With a Draft grade of 7.1 and a projected top 3 pick, here is what NFL scouts are seeing in the USC quarterback:

Height & Weight: 6 foot 4, 225 lbs. (School measurements)


  • Instincts
  • Arm strength
  • Throwing on the run & outside of pocket
  • Clock management


  • Decision making
  • Consistency in accuracy
  • Ball security

The Intangibles:

One of Darnold’s best qualities and probably what excites scouts the most is his ability to stay calm in any situation. With Darnold you never feel like the game is over until the clock hits zero, and the quarterback has marched straight down the field for many a comeback.

When Darnold is on he’s on, and his ability to extend the play was arguably the best in college football. Much like Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, Darnold is a game manager and has the dual threat capability in his pocket.

Darnold also has an incredibly high ceiling, football IQ, and has yet to reach his full potential. Coaches will get to groom the 20-year-old phenom to be exactly what they want and he will still surprise them along the way.

Many of the turnovers that plagued Darnold throughout his college career stemmed from his need to do too much. Get rid of the desperate ill-fated throws and fix his ball security, and coaches will have a force to be reckoned with.

For fans outside of the Pac-12 fanbase, here is a rundown of Darnold’s time at USC and the stats that started all the hype.

2015-2016 Season

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl Game-Penn State vs Southern California Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

After the Trojans were 1-2 to start the season behind redshirt junior quarterback Max Browne, Clay Helton named then redshirt freshman Darnold the starter for the away game at Utah. Though USC lost, it was the first time the offense had looked competent and Darnold had given the team a much needed spark. It was a spark that ignited a nine game win streak, Rose Bowl Championship, and a No. 3 end of the season AP Poll ranking.

Record: 10-3

Completion %: 67.2

Yards: 3,086

Total touchdowns: 33

Rush yards: 250

Interceptions: 9

Sacks: 6

Accomplishments: Rose Bowl MVP, Archie Griffin Award, Pac 12 Freshman of the Year

2017-2018 Season

NCAA Football: Pac-12 Championship-Southern California vs Stanford Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Going into the 2017 season the Trojans were a favorite to make a run for the National Championship. Though things did not pan out that way, Darnold lead the team to its first Pac 12 Championship victory since the game’s inception in 2011. In his second season as starter, Darnold had fewer completions, touchdowns, & rush yards, and more interceptions and sacks, which were the main reasons USC fans thought he should stay an extra year. Though he was seemingly less perfect than the season before, Darnold had no shortage of awards and wins and the Trojans would not have been conference champions without him.

Record: 11-3

Completion %: 63.1

Yards: 4,143

Total touchdowns: 31

Rush yards: 82

Interceptions: 13

Sacks: 29

Accomplishments: Pac 12 Championship MVP, USC Single Season Passing Record, USC Total Offense Record, First Team All Pac 12

Potential Landing Spots

  • No. 1 Pick to Cleveland Browns
  • No. 2 to New York Giants
  • No. 4 to Cleveland Browns
  • No. 5 to Denver Broncos
  • No. 6 to New York Jets

With a Draft class that includes quarterbacks Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, Josh Rosen, and Josh Allen, fans will find out on April 26 where Darnold ranks in NFL teams’ minds.