Darnold is a cinch to become the sixth redshirt sophomore quarterback to be drafted in the first round. Scouts swoon over his intangibles and bloodlines - grandfather, Dick Hammer, played basketball at USC and was on the Olympic volleyball team, while Sam's father, Mike, played football at Redlands College. Darnold redshirted behind Cody Kessler and Max Browne in 2015 and become the starter in 2016. Darnold completed 67.2 percent of his passes as a freshman, starting nine games, with 31 touchdown passes and nine interceptions. Ball security and decision-making became concerns for scouts observing Darnold as a sophomore, when he had 24 total turnovers, including 13 fumbles. He was still the All-Pac-12 first-team quarterback (coaches) in 2017 with 4,143 passing yards and 26 touchdowns.
A pro-ready passer with the arm strength and pocket presence to survive a flawed wind-up release. Likely to be in the running for the No. 1 overall pick and considered a lock in the top-10, Darnold could benefit from a season on the sideline to perfect his footwork and sync a throwing motion that can tip defenders to the intended target. Darnold plays with grit, can deliver the ball on time from a moving pocket and was praised by college coaches and teammates for his natural leadership traits.
With 21 fumbles in 27 career games at USC, scouts are split on whether improving technique on his drop back will help Darnold curb the issue. His process can be sped up by pressure, but Darnold generally responds with clutch throws under duress. Decision-making could improve with NFL coaching. Could thrive in an up-tempo system that accentuates his instant trigger and velocity.
--Field Level Media