Sam Darnold chose not to throw at the NFL Scouting Combine earlier this month, and many thought the decision would come back to haunt him when rain was forecast for his pro day at USC. As it turns out, the weather may have helped.
Darnold threw passes in front of scouts on Wednesday in a steady rain, and the conditions appeared to have very little impact.
— Michelle Polanski (@MichellePolans3) March 21, 2018
The rain is coming down at @USC_Athletics' Pro Day and Sam Darnold is putting on a show.
: LIVE on NFL Network pic.twitter.com/qUYx19GwCA
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) March 21, 2018
Darnold had a reasonable explanation for not throwing at the combine, but making that choice is always risky for quarterback prospects. It became even riskier for the 20-year-old with the inclement weather, though some scouts may have liked seeing a west coast player throw passes in less-than-ideal conditions. In a deep class of quarterbacks, anything you can do to separate yourself from the pack is beneficial.
The 2018 NFL Combine in Indianapolis has officially come and gone, and draft boards have been substantially shaken up due to the overall results. But that doesn’t necessarily mean anything is set in stone. Professional scouts will have one more opportunity to put a watchful eye on NFL Draft prospects.
Already underway, college Pro Days will provide one final opportunity for draft hopefuls to put on a display, improve their stock, and prove to the NFL decision-makers that they have what it takes to succeed at the next level.
Here’s a look at 15 NFL prospects with the most to gain at their respective Pro Days.
15. Durham Smythe, TE, Notre Dame
At 6-foot-5, 253 pounds and with big hands, Durham Smythe fits the bill of a talented and dominant tight end. Unfortunately, Smythe’s lack of college production (24 catches for 356 yards and five touchdowns total the last two seasons) meant he needed to put up big numbers during athleticism testing at the NFL Combine. That did not happen and, instead, Smythe ranked near the bottom of an otherwise talented tight end class, especially from a receiving standpoint. If Smythe wishes to become a more highly-touted tight end entering the NFL Draft, he’ll need to put up better athletic numbers at Notre Dame’s March 22 Pro Day.
USC quarterback Sam Darnold made the risky decision not to throw at the NFL Combine, and he says it was simply a tactical decision.
Darnold said Friday that he had no medical issue, and simply felt that the best showcase for his talents would be to throw to his own receivers at USC’s pro day.
USC QB Sam Darnold on not throwing here: “given all the information I had, I felt like it was the best decision.” Said it’s not medically driven, and that he liked the idea of throwing to his own receivers at his pro day.
— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 2, 2018
There’s a lot of jockeying at the top of the draft among the highest-ranked quarterbacks, and it remains to be seen how Darnold’s decision here will impact his draft stock, if at all. It may not matter if a quarterback-hungry team with the chance to draft him was already not completely sold on him.
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The consensus is that the Cleveland Browns will use the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft on a quarterback, but nobody knows yet which it will be. Rival evaluators, however, think they have an idea.
According to Charles Robinson of Yahoo Sports, there is a belief that Baker Mayfield is firmly in the mix for the top pick, possessing many of the attributes GM John Dorsey may be seeking. Sam Darnold is also believed to be a candidate, while Josh Allen could find himself in the mix.
Mayfield has had a good week of practice at the Senior Bowl, which has apparently put him firmly on Cleveland’s radar.
“A lot of what he is as a player fits with the mentality of [Cleveland Browns general manager] John Dorsey,” one source told Robinson. “Just his mental makeup as a player, John believes in building around those kinds of guys. … I think he’s a strong candidate [for the top pick] after this week.”
On the other hand, Darnold’s superior size should work in his favor, and he possesses a lot of athleticism as well. Both are strong leaders, which will likely appeal to Dorsey.
One name that doesn’t sound like a favorite is Josh Rosen, who doesn’t seem to be a Dorsey favorite. Of course, a lot can change between now and April, so none of this is written in stone yet.
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Clay Helton sent a really nice note about Sam Darnold after the quarterback declared for the NFL Draft on Wednesday.
The USC head coach called Darnold a “true example of what it means to be a Trojan” and praised Darnold’s character.
— Clay Helton (@USCCoachHelton) January 4, 2018
Though Darnold only played two seasons for the Trojans, he was in the program for three as he redshirted his first year, so Helton has been around him for a long time.
Darnold went 20-4 as the Trojans’ starting quarterback over the past two seasons. He led the team to a Rose Bowl victory last year and was 9-1 as their starter as a redshirt freshman. Moreover, Darnold never got into any trouble while he was at USC.
Darnold and Josh Rosen both declared for the draft Wednesday and could become the top two picks in the draft.
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- College Football
Wednesday was apparently universal “let’s declare for the draft day.”
Both Sam Darnold and Josh Rosen declared for the NFL Draft on Wednesday, about a half hour apart. Rosen made his announcement on Twitter and Instagram, posting this note:
Thankful to be a Bruin pic.twitter.com/iph754UL2b
— Josh Rosen (@josh3rosen) January 3, 2018
The former UCLA QB said in his note that he would return to finish his degree. His previous coach Jim Mora said Rosen was on schedule to graduate in the spring, so preparing for the NFL Draft will delay those plans.
Darnold made his announcement in a video post he shared on Instagram:
Darnold’s announcement is slightly more surprising than Rosen’s. Darnold was a redshirt sophomore and had two more years of eligibility. His stats decreased from his redshirt freshman season, and he had a poor showing in the Cotton Bowl against Ohio State. Plus a report on Tuesday even said he was likely to return to school.
Darnold has expressed some willingness to go wherever he’s taken, while Rosen reportedly does not want to go to Cleveland. The Browns have the Nos. 1 and 4 picks. A scenario in which Darnold goes to Cleveland and Rosen goes to the New York Giants at No. 2 overall seems very plausible.
Though Sam Darnold continues to be regarded as one of the top NFL quarterback prospects in the country, it seems more and more likely that he will return to USC for his redshirt junior season.
Sporting News’ Eric Galko reported in a column published on Tuesday that Darnold is expected to return to school. He says that Darnold has “spurned away NFL discussion and the role agents play in the process since the first half of the season.” He adds that most around the league are more excited about Darnold as a 2019 prospect than 2018 QB.
Darnold just completed his second season as USC’s quarterback, though next year will be his fourth in school since he redshirted in his first year. Though he led the Trojans to an 11-3 season, Darnold saw his turnovers increase, while his completion percentage and passer rating decreased from his excellent redshirt freshman season a year ago.
The consensus was also that Darnold had a poor showing in the Cotton Bowl against Ohio State as he failed to throw a touchdown or make USC competitive. If Darnold indeed decides to return to school, many will probably agree that it is the right decision for him. As of November, he wasn’t talking about his draft status.