Recently there has been a lot of talk on Sam Darnold being worthy of being a #1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. It is time to slow the roll on that kind of talk. While Darnold possesses some tremendous skill, the Pre-Season All-American leaves a lot to be desired from an NFL standpoint.
Let’s Start with this play
One of my first concerns with Darnod is how robotic and “clanky” he looks on the bootleg. Yes, clanky is a strange word to use to describe a football player but watch the clip and I think you will agree. Darnold has very little fluidity running and in the open field. My second gripe with Darnold on this play is how long it takes him to pull the trigger once the decision has been made. He knows he wants to hit #80 on the modified slant/out. The ball placement is good but because he telegraphs the play for a number of seconds, the pass is broken up and ultimately Darnold is lucky that it wasn’t intercepted.
Now let’s take a look a look at a play that has scouts intrigued with Darnold’s potential.
This is a Run-Pass Option (RPO) that is becoming increasingly popular in college football and even in the NFL. This play shows Darnold’s quick processing ability. The read is on the OLB on the near side of the screen. If he reacts to #80s motion across the field and trails him, then Darnold will hand off, but if he reacts to the play action to the RB then Darnold will pull out the ball and hit #80 in the flats. The correct read is the latter one and Darnold makes it perfectly. He gets the ball out quickly and is accurate with the pass.
Next, I want to take a look at one of the plays that concerns me the most with Darnold.
Here we see #88 lined up between the Guard and Tackle on the left. The safety is cheating over to the offense’s right, a side that has 2 WRs. The linebackers appear to be playing #88 as if he will be staying in to block. This leaves him free to run down the seam with no man to man coverage and late help over the top as the safety recognizes his mistake. Darnold should easily recognize #88 as the hot receiver. With the blitz he doesn’t have enough blockers and he has a wide open receiver. The read should be immediate. It wasn’t. Darnold is too occupied with the pressure to take in what’s going on on the field. That play is incredibly concerning. A QB needs to be able to make these quick decisions in the face of pressure.
Here we see Darnold redeem himself slightly a few plays later.
Here Darnold is able to evade some quick pressure and get out of the grasp of the UCLA DL. Despite what I referred to as “clanky” movements earlier, Darnold steps up and out of the pocket effectively and delivers a pass with good accuracy despite the pursuit of Takk McKinley. He does a great job of squaring up his shoulders and delivering an accurate pass with the rush bearing down on him.
Throughout the three games, I watched of Darnold I was largely unimpressed. Obviously Darnold is young and should improve with experience, but even so, his spotty accuracy and inconsistent decision making give me serious pause. He has shown the ability to make simple reads but beyond that, I have yet to see anything to write home about in terms of mental processing ability. I think he will develop a great deal over the 2017 season, but as it stands now I can’t justify giving Darnold more than a 5th round grade.