It’s uncertain what will transpire within the first five picks of the 2018 NFL Draft but if quarterback Sam Darnold ends up getting selected by the New York Jets, he’d be a great player to develop for a bright future.
After trading for the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft around three weeks ago, the New York Jets are preparing to select who they hope will be their franchise quarterback. There are a few quality options, but USC’s Sam Darnold would be a great fit as a project quarterback.
You can make an argument for a few players in this year’s draft being the best overall quarterback in the class at this point. When discussing potential, however, it’s pretty tough to argue against the former Trojan, Sam Darnold. It’s also impossible to deny that the Jets would (and did) go to great lengths to find a signal caller with a Pro Football Hall of Fame ceiling.
To start off, Darnold checks off all of the basic boxes that scouts would look for. He’s got great size at 6’4″, 221 lbs, plus arm strength, and good athleticism which is an asset in for him in crucial situations. He also had an impressive college career going 20-6 as a starter in the talented PAC-12 conference.
In terms of the less physical aspects of the game, Darnold has proven to have a high football I.Q. He’s superb with his progressions and reads showing almost nothing but pro-level ability on tape. On top of that, he’s gained a great reputation as a leader and teammate at USC which is as crucial as anything at the next level.
The trait that likely got scouts as high on Darnold as they currently are is his overall ability to play in the pocket where he instantly draws comparisons to the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo. Darnold has great poise in the pocket as he stays strong and consistent against significant pressure. He’s also fantastic at improvising when things break down. His athleticism shines through more than ever as you watch him evade defender after defender in the pocket.
Contrary to what many believe, Darnold does come with some significant flaws that could keep him from being highly efficient and productive at the next level. His mechanics will absolutely need improvement along with his decision making.
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When you look at Darnold from a mechanical standpoint, he needs somewhat of an overhaul. For a start, his release is too big and wide. It also takes too long so he’ll need to work on tightening that up which is not an easy thing to do. To go along with that, his footwork is going to need a lot of re-tooling. It’s very inconsistent and at its worst, it can be brutally sloppy.
Darnold’s decision making is another focal point that will be key to his development going forward. He throws far too many poor passes that are either into traffic or giving a defensive back a prime opportunity to jump the pass for an interception.
Darnold also needs to get better at decisions that seem more insignificant. He must learn to slide sometimes. He also needs to know when to get rid of the ball versus taking a sack or attempting to make a completion. This could help him fumble the ball less which was a big problem as he fumbled nine times last season.
There are other little things that Darnold will need to work on as well such as getting better touch on his passes and throwing on the run. Apart from those things, that pretty much wraps the evaluation.
What it all adds up to is a big-time project, quarterback prospect. Darnold has the tools to be a special quarterback in the NFL, but there are things holding him back that he must improve upon to reach that point. The right approach will make Darnold a success, but his major flaws do give him some bust potential.
Based on recent reports, it seems unlikely that Darnold makes it past the New York Giants giving the Jets an opportunity to select him. He’d be an awesome selection for the Jets though, as he’d give them a franchise cornerstone. They would have to work with him for at least a year or two and it seems as if the Jets can never be trusted with the task of grooming quarterbacks. It’ll be interesting to see how things develop going forward since Darnold would be one worth investing in for what likely is a very successful future in the pros.