At 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, Darnold has the size you want at the quarterback position and has the athleticism to scramble and make plays out of the pocket (Darnold ran 4.85 40-yard-dash). Darnold’s calling card is his anticipation and accuracy in the middle of the field. He can pick apart zones, knows how to throw his receivers open and is especially adept at doing so while under pressure. This was on full display in 2016 as he put together one of the best seasons by a redshirt freshman. He was top 5 in the Pac-12 in every major quarterback statistic and led USC to a 10-3 record that year.
Last year left something to be desired from Darnold as he took more risks with the football, throwing 13 interceptions to the nine he threw in 2016. His touchdowns and completion percentage went down, but his yards per attempt went up, reflecting his willingness to take shots downfield. That part of his game will take time to develop as he’s still not the best deep ball thrower, ranking 22nd last year in adjusted completion percentage. I’m sure there will also be work done on his mechanics as he has a tendency to elongate his throwing motion.
However, every rookie has stuff to work on. Darnold’s floor is a competent starting quarterback in the NFL. His floor. He has all the intangibles you look for in a franchise quarterback—size, strength, mobility, anticipation, toughness, poise—and given his accuracy, he’ll be able to come in and start for an NFL team from day one.
Don’t mess this up Cleveland.
Darnold’s College Stats
Best Fantasy Fits
- Cleveland Browns: Obviously the Browns are atop this list because—and I now say this without 100% confidence—Darnold shouldn’t make it past Cleveland at No. 1. Darnold’s anticipation and accuracy ties in perfectly with the receiving staff the Browns have put together this offseason. Jarvis Landry operates best close to the line of scrimmage on quick routes that get him into open space while Duke Johnson and David Njoku can also thrive in a quick passing attack. And it certainly helps a quarterback who struggles throwing the ball downfield to pair him with a big catch radius receiver like Josh Gordon. For a team that has struggled to find a quarterback for the last billion years, Darnold looks to be the guy to finally give Cleveland some stability at the QB position.
- New York Jets: I originally had the Giants here—because what quarterback doesn’t want to be throwing balls to Odell Beckham Jr—but I took them off the list because it doesn’t help Darnold to sit behind Eli Manning for a year. Sure, every rookie could use a year to get acclimated into the NFL, but Darnold is much more day one ready than say Allen or Baker Mayfield or Lamar Jackson in my opinion. The Jets have a sneaky strong receiver core with Robby Anderson and Jermaine Kearse plus adding Terrelle Pryor (who we know I love) and getting Quincy Enunwa back from injury. Josh McCown is nothing more that a space filler right now and if the Jets were to be so lucky to get Darnold, McCown would be kicked to the curb faster than you can say, “Wait, McCown average almost 16 fantasy points per game?”
Normally in these profiles we list at least three fits we like, but let’s be honest, there’s no way in hell Sam Darnold is making it past the Jets at No. 3 overall. If you really want a third team, how about the Arizona Cardinals. Or if I’m being really daring, the Bengals just selling their entire future to get an upgrade over Andy Dalton. That I’d like to see.
Are the Browns going to Browns this up?
This poll is closed
No, they’ll take Sam Darnold
You bet your bottom they will
Yup and the Jets are going to reap the benefits