Sam Darnold, QB, USC…..Darnold’s high-end play is as good as it gets in the class, as he has next-level feel in the middle of the field and he’s capable of making big plays outside of structure. Those skills showed through with the No. 2 percentage of big-time throws in the draft class last season, though he must improve his ball security after posting the fifth-highest percentage of turnover-worthy plays. Darnold has two years of excellent production at a young age and that should translate to the NFL.
STRENGTHS: Has desired NFL size. Trusts his pocket and keeps eyes down the field. Looks off safeties. Takes what defense is offering and won’t overcomplicate it. Scans full field and eyes don’t get bogged down on a single target. Gets through progressions like a pro. Throws with desired anticipation and timing. Isolates deep ball opportunities pre-snap. There isn’t a throw he fears. Impressive feel for spatial relationship between target and defender. Trusts his arm and placement. Naturally accurate with tight spirals. Has arm talent to uncork it quickly. Rifles it to hitches and swing passes giving them time to operate. Has velocity, timing and accuracy to own the deep out. Tough in and out of the pocket. Feels edge pressure and climbs away from sharks circling the rush arc. Shakes off sack attempts and throws with accuracy and pace when on the move. Completion percentage unaffected by blitz. Sudden processor when faced with free-running blitzers. Can pump and re-calibrate. Tough runner who can move the sticks with his legs. Doesn’t get shaken by in-game mistakes. Shows quality leadership and poise.
WEAKNESSES Elongated release is impossible to miss. Ball drops to his waist with forearm pointed towards the ground, pre-delivery. Windup gives defenders early clue to break on the throw. Muscle memory may not allow for release correction. Turnover total is alarming. Finished 2017 with 13 interceptions and nine lost fumbles. Has 20 interceptions over last 20 games. Decision-making and field vision were inconsistent this year. Has a tendency to rush throws once internal clock winds down. Too much mustard on some short throws. Muscles too many throws rather than driving with lower half. Too willing to throw from uneven platform. Intermediate accuracy fell from 2016. Can throw with better placement and lead his targets. Deep ball touch needs work. Took sacks when incompletions were available. Rarely slides in the open field which has to change.