Tampa Bay Buccaneers

2018 Prospect Primer: QB Sam Darnold

The USC quarterback is ranked as the number one quarterback prospect, with experts citing his football IQ and strong arm as his major strengths.

View photos of USC QB Sam Darnold in college. Photos by AP Images.

As a redshirt sophomore, quarterback Sam Darnold played his last collegiate season of football in 2017. Darnold announced he would forfeit his last two years of eligibility to declare for the NFL Draft and according to many experts, he is more than ready. Darnold is even projected to go as high as first overall to the Cleveland Browns in many mock drafts.

Darnold redshirted his first year with the Trojans but got his chance as a redshirt freshman, playing in all 13 games and starting nine in 2016. He went 246 for 366 and 3,086 yards with 31 touchdowns and just nine interceptions.

In 2017, he completed 303 of 480 passing attempts for 4,143 yards, passed for 26 touchdowns and led USC to a Pac-12 conference championship while earning himself First-Team All-Pac-12 honors. His 13 interceptions and 11 fumbles last season do give some pause for concern, however. He has an elongated release that can often tip off defenders and allow them to break on his throws, but often times his sheer velocity can compensate for this.

Despite only having only two collegiate seasons under his belt, his football and quarterback IQ are extremely developed as well. He can get through progressions quickly, reads defenses and will take what they give him. Darnold has great pocket presence exemplified by the fact that his completion percentage is unaffected by the blitz, according to his draft profile on NFL.com.

Darnold was a three-sport athlete in high school, playing football, basketball and baseball. He was a football high school All-American and Orange County Player of the Year after passing for 2,996 yards and 39 touchdowns with eight interceptions his senior year.

Daniel Jeremiah has Sam Darnold going first overall to the Cleveland Browns in his first mock draft of the year.

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